Physical stress symptoms

Was struck by this from Elizabeth Yin:

As it would turn out over half of my friends who are tech entrepreneurs or recovering tech entrepreneurs have stress-induced issues. Repetitive strain issues, tingling feelings, shingles, IBS or other chronic stress-related problems, etc. It’s seemingly quite common, and while mental health is starting to be discussed, the physical ramifications of stress are rarely discussed publicly.

I’m not a tech entrepreneur (yet?..) but the thing that I experience regularly from stress is left-side chest pain. The first couple of times it appeared I was afraid something is wrong with my heart or lungs but after a while realized that it’s somatic.

Sometimes the pain/tension is quite strong and present for weeks if I’m stressed/anxious a lot, although fortunately it always goes away eventually. I think it goes away once I realize that I’m too stressed out and deal with the source of pressure or with the inner conflict that’s behind it.

1 Like

I used to have a ton of back problems, and one day (for no apparent reason) bent down to pick something up, was suddenly in a ton of pain, and couldn’t stand back up for ~24 hours. Certainly my posture was bad, but my posture is still very bad now and I have ~0 back problems.

I have acne. For a while it was pretty bad, so I tried pretty much every conventional solution (salicylic acid, various weird diets, many creams, changing pillow case, washing face regularly, using a clean towel every time0. Then I went on vacation for 2 weeks, ate whatever I wanted, used no creams, never washed my face, etc, and things cleared up ~50%. 2 weeks after getting back to work, the acne was back too. Now I’m ~6 weeks into unemployment, do literally nothing for my skin, and have much less acne than before.

1 Like

Glad somebody shared this feeling. Absolutely can confirm that many of my friends in tech have this, too, in some extent. And certainly not only them. I wanted to generalize by “intellectuals”, but this is a kinda elitist thing to do, plus I feel too biased to draw conclusions. Still think this is what FOMO and imposter syndrome does to you―at least it is certainly relatable to this post.

As for my own experience, since I was a kid (like 5 y.o.) I had somatic cough syndrome. It is, basically, a cough induced by internal tension, the one you can’t really resist. It stopped almost entirely the moment my first psychologist hypothesized about it being one of my ways to cope with stress. (It was a gestalt therapy, needless to say lol.) Still have to consciously control it, though.

I also have a weird rare pulling sensation in lower right abdomen. The doctor said the reason could be cough and/or that I sit too much -> muscle atrophy. I started to train those muscles and in a few months it got better. Also, the sitting posture improvements certainly helped. Now I only have a small chance of experiencing it―while I’m stressed, for whatever reason.

And when I don’t control my posture for a few days (hyperfocus/stress/depression) or am cold, my right index finger turns fucking white! It is called Raynaud syndrome.

There’s also some OCD stuff I do under stress, which is not too uncommon among the people in tech, too.

Btw, liked that “recovering tech entrepreneurs.”

1 Like

@guzey could your chest pain be related to the posture? People tend to “bend” under stress, which could easily be the cause. I can not stress (pun not intended) enough how maintaining a good posture helps me.

@KyleSchiller Interesting that you mentioned it, because there’re some studies on associations between low back problems with depression/mental health. For example:

Over 50% of subjects reported low back pain across grades, and both depression and somatization were significantly positively associated with low back pain. Several positive associations between the cooccurrence of somatization and depression with various grades of low back pain were observed.

As for acne, couldn’t agree more―the causes are so mysterious. I’ve been fighting it for ~8 years now, and although isotretinoin therapy and other various methods helped, the most efficient solution for me was eliminating sugar and floury/junk food. And, maybe less, also managing stress (don’t laugh), growth mindset.

There’s a well acknowledged theory, that cortisol produces excess sebum, which produces favorable conditions for the growth of bacteria, which is what we call acne. Furthermore, chronically high cortisol levels raise the insulin resistance, which is why glucose levels also remain high. It’s a vicious cycle. Less junk food -> stable glucose/insulin levels -> less inflammation (check) -> better mood -> less cortisol -> less sebum (check) -> less acne. Anyways, I’m not an expert, but I am 100% sure it helped.

1 Like

Ha! That actually is probably one of the contributing factors. I do notice that when sometimes I don’t care to watch out for my posture at all and my entire body ends up being bent… I’m trying to pay more attention to this but I don’t think this is a full explanation tbh.

Do you have any actual evidence for this hypothesis? Last time I looked at something like this I couldn’t find anything.


Just remembered there’s this good SSC post:

1 Like