7 Signs Of High Cortisol Caused By Chronic Stress And Other Factors

Date November 28, 2017

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone your body releases in response to stress. It also plays a major role in metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and also has a potent anti-inflammatory effect. High cortisol is normal in fight-or-flight situations, but when it’s constantly elevated due to chronic stress or other factors, it has a significant negative impact on your physical and mental health. Having too little of this hormone can also cause unpleasant symptoms.

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There are certain signs that indicate you may have high cortisol, and your doctor will order tests to check your levels of this hormone if he or she suspects it may be too high or too low.

How are cortisol levels measured and what can abnormal levels mean?

You doctor may order blood test, saliva test, or urine test to determine your levels of cortisol. If levels of this hormone are too low, it may be a sign of polyendocrine deficiency syndrome or Addison’s disease. Elevated cortisol has many possible causes, and the most common is chronic stress. High cortisol can also be associated with the following:

How to control your cortisol level?

From the video below, you can learn about the best ways to keep your cortisol levels at bay.

What are the signs and symptoms of high cortisol?

As we mentioned above, high cortisol is most commonly caused by chronic stress, not health conditions. But chronic stress itself can cause mental and physical health to deteriorate, that's why it’s important to have your cortisol levels checked if you have the following signs and symptoms:


Normally, your levels of cortisol are low and your levels of melatonin are increased at nighttime. So, if your cortisol is elevated, it will prevent you from falling asleep.

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Inability to concentrate

Stress is the enemy of concentration. When your cortisol is too high, you may find yourself unable to focus.

Weight gain

Increased levels of cortisol can lead to overeating (especially unhealthy foods) and also affect lipid metabolism. It manifests in the accumulation of belly fat.

Frequent colds

While beneficial as a treatment to suppress the immune response in people with autoimmune diseases, cortisol levels can rise too high and impair the function of the immune system in healthy individuals, leaving them more vulnerable to common colds and other infections.

Decreased libido

High cortisol is associated with low libido both in women and men.

Heart problems

If your cortisol is chronically elevated, it causes increased heart rate and high blood pressure, which can eventually lead to heart disease.

Digestive problems

Elevated cortisol may contribute to the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which manifests in abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and gas.

Source: WebMD, HealthCentral, University Health News

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This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.