You are about to take an exam. Your girlfriend is mad at you. Your parents have decided to separate. These are just some stressful situations that negatively affect your body. As a result, the body gears up to respond: your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises and your muscles become tense.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, studies have found that stress is the number one cause for smoking and substance abuse. They also found that individuals who are exposed to stress have higher chances of abusing drugs and alcohol, or undergo relapse for those who have tried living sober.

Here are other negative side effects of stress:

  1. It messes with your memory . Stress makes it difficult to remember where you put your car keys or remember to attend an appointment on time. A study by the Nature Reviews Neuroscience has shown that stress can create a long-term impact on how the brain performs. Another study done by the University of Iowa associated high levels of stress to short-term memory.
  2. It makes you gain weight . Pamela Peeke, M.D., Senior Science Adviser for Elements Behavioral Health and author of “The Hunger Fix”, said that individuals tend to crave for fatty and salty foods when they are stressed. This lowers your metabolism and makes you gain weight. If you have been stressed for a long period and you have noticed a significant weight gain, then stress may be causing it.
  3. It makes sleep difficult . Stress can keep you tossing and turning all night, and even though your body is telling you that it is tired, the mind remains awake, giving you less time for sleep.
  4. It triggers hair loss .In dogs, any traumatic experience can cause them to lose a significant amount of hair. In humans, however, the effect is more dramatic. It may occur two to three months after an event, says New York-based hair restoration expert Robert Dorin. According to him, any physical or psychological stress can cause the thinning of the hair, which occurs from a condition called Telogen effluvium. Stressors can include lack of sleep, depression, anxiety or any chronic illness.
  5. It affects your sexual interests . According to Muhammad Mirza, M.D., stress lessens a man’s interest in any form of sexual activity. Intimacy itself can become a rather stressful chore. Ongoing stress also affects the hormones, which causes chemical changes in the body resulting in worsening sexual problems that may include loss of libido and erectile dysfunction.

It is important to avoid stress at all cost for your continued sober living. Otherwise, the process of living in sobriety will be very difficult. Worse, it will cause other health problems that can destroy your body and ruin your chances to success.