The 3 Most Dangerous Effects of Work-Related Stress

The 3 Most Dangerous Effects of Work-Related Stress
Julia Marquez Arrico

Written and verified by the psychologist Julia Marquez Arrico.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

We all have to deal with the daily demands of our jobs. When these demands are greater than our personal resources, we can experience work-related stress. 

This condition doesn’t have negative effects on our psychological health in the short term. We have adaptive mechanisms and coping strategies to deal with these kinds of demands. 

However, if the work-related demands extend over time, stress exhaustion can set in. This is when our coping strategies stop working because you can no longer adapt to the stress. In other words, your mind enters a state of exhaustion that leads to work-related stress. You can’t start up your coping strategies because you’re psychologically burned out.

The state of psychological exhaustion due to work-related stress is a very common problem in our society. Approximately 60% of patients who seek therapy experience very high levels of work-related stress. In fact, as therapy progresses and the patient improves, they implement stress management and coping strategies at work.

If you don’t work on managing your stress, these changes won’t be long term. The effects of work stress will return. Thus, the patient’s clinical picture will be bleak again. To bring awareness to this problem and try to prevent it, this article will outline the three most dangerous effects of work-related stress.

Woman experiencing work-related stress.

Concentration and memory problems

Among the most common effects of work stress is neuropsychological waste. This stress impairs cognitive functions such as attention, reasoning, memory, and decision making.

Now, why does stress affect mental functions? The reason lies in constantly performing tasks that need to be monitored over time and the need for control that comes from it.

Another effect of work-related stress is a decreased ability to concentrate. Most often, when a person has a lot of stress at work, they acquire the skill of multitasking, which means doing several tasks at once.

Multitasking is very harmful to your concentration. It teaches you to function under multiple stimulation sources. When you want to concentrate on one thing, the mind has a habit of jumping from one task to another. Therefore, although you want to concentrate on one single task, the multitasking habit takes over. You end up constantly distracted.

It’s important to understand that attention is a process of adding information to our psychological system. If attention changes, your memory will also change. In other words, you must pay attention to remember thins. If the information doesn’t enter the mind correctly, it can’t be retained (memorized). Therefore, work-related stress impairs memory by weakening attention and concentration. 


Stress makes your sympathetic nervous system prepare itself to flee or fight. Even though the cause of the stress isn’t a matter of life or death, your body secretes the same hormones. The body releases cortisol (the stress hormone), adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These hormones raise the heart rate, increase alertness, cause sweating and heavy breathing, and other reactions.

If your body is constantly on high alert, this will result in anxiety. The main concern is when anxiety due to work-related stress lingers over a long period of time. It produces anguish and discomfort, which can manifest as chest pressure, stomach pain, and a rapid heartbeat.

Man suffering from anxiety.

Mood changes and depressive symptoms

Mood is the result of a simple arithmetic rule: positive moments – negative moments = mood (joy or sadness).  Work-related stress fills the bag with negative moments. If you can’t tilt the balance towards the positive, you may feel like this: I work hard, I work a lot, I stress myself out, and I get nothing out of it. 

Stress also makes you secrete cortisol. High levels of this hormone are directly related to depression. We don’t know which causes which, but we do know that they’re directly related. Therefore, if you have a lot of tasks at work, along with pressure to complete the tasks, not having time to experience positive moments, and high cortisol levels, you have a perfect combination for a depressed mood.

Finally, it’s very important to understand that the most dangerous effects of work-related stress explained in this article are listed in order. This means that memory and concentration problems manifest first. Anxiety comes next. Finally, you suffer from depressive symptoms. 

Therefore, it’s very important to learn how to manage work-related stress. If you try on your own but can’t, go see a psychologist. They have an arsenal of tools you can use to maximize your performance and reduce stress. 

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.