Symptoms of Stress in Women

Symptoms of Stress in Women

In keeping with Women’s History Month, we are shining a spotlight on stress in women. Women are twice as stressed as men. Researchers at the University of Cambridge studied stress in Western women taking into account factors like gender, age, and medical conditions. The researchers found that over 4% of all adults are stressed and for every stressed man there are twice as many women who suffer.

Women experience unique reactions to stress and the signs and symptoms might look different then what you would typically think.

Muscle Tension

Around 30% of women report muscle tension as a primary symptom of stress. Muscle tension can include muscle tightness, muscle tenderness, and muscle pain and can persist when trying to relax or fall asleep. The stress response, sometimes referred to as the fight or flight response,  is a significant contributor to muscle tension. This is because the brain and body perceive stress as a psychological danger and this triggers the secretion of stress hormones to the muscles of the body in order to prepare it for action or survival.

Lower Sex Drive

Women who report high levels of stress also report lower sex drive. Research has shown several different reasons contributing to this including cognitive rumination, hormonal changes, and sleep problems. All of which have an underlying component of stress.

Painful Menstruation

Research has shown that stress can impact fertility by delaying or altogether stopping ovulation. In addition, stress has been shown to cause heavy periods and painful menstruation cramps. This can begin as early as adolescence and may be related to PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder.


Fifty-one percent of women report headache as a symptom when they are stressed. Stress can case two types of headaches: tension headaches and migraines. Tension headaches feel like a dull pain in a band across the head while migraines are a throbbing or pulsing pain typically localized to one side of the head.


There are several ways that stress can impact fatigue in women, but the primary culprit is insomnia. Insomnia affects a significant number of women, with up to 67% reporting they have a sleeping problem. One of the ways that stress can impact sleep is cognitive rumination (repeated and worrying) before bed or upon waking in the middle of the night.

These are some of the most common symptoms of stress in women. Would you add any to the list? Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce stress and we talk about a few of them here.