Untreated, stress can intensify into anxiety or into depression, both of which can cause very serious long-term problems. Again, both of these conditions carry with them both psychological and physical components; a sufferer of depression may distance themselves from friends and family, thus setting up a situation where their pain is intensified.
The physical results of depression and anxiety can include cardiac issues. Most directly, it can cause a condition called unstable angina. Sudden and crippling chest pain results from constricted oxygen flow to the heart. Obviously this can set a person up for heart attacks and there have been incidents of sudden stress causing a blockage of heart arteries.
High blood pressure can be brought on, or exacerbated, by anxiety or depression. The effects of high blood pressure can be very serious and may lead to strokes; at the very least, patients find it necessary to take long-term medication in order to regulate their blood pressure.
Less serious (though still debilitating) conditions can be triggered by stress. It may lead to a compromised immune system, which leaves one more vulnerable to a range of everyday viruses and bacteria such as colds, flu and strep. Tension can also cause upsets in a patient's digestive system, irritating the bowel and other parts of the digestive system. While they are rarely dangerous, symptoms such as bloating, constipation, gas, and diarrhea are distasteful and frustrating.
Coupled with digestive problems the food habits of a sufferer may be affected, causing eating disorders. Some people turn to food as a comfort, while others may find themselves unable to eat. In extreme cases, obesity and anorexia may be brought on by the effects of anxiety and depression. Eating disorders are not the only problem; increased rates of diabetes and arthritis have been linked to stress, and its debilitating effects may interfere with long-term management of those conditions.
Yet another problem is sleep disorders. Anxiety can cause a sufferer to toss and turn at night, missing the sleep that is so vital for stress management. Once again, a cycle is created of anxiety leading to interrupted sleep, which itself contributes to the underlying problem. In this situation it is common for sufferers to turn to sleeping pills or other artificial sleep aids in order to get the sleep that is so desperately needed. But of course, these methods of sleep management carry with them inherent risks which can turn into long-term problems.
There are a variety of ways to reduce the stress in your life, many of which you can put into action for yourself. You'll find many effective tips for stress management at http://www.BeyondStressed.com