The 4 stress hormones

The most important stress hormones are cortisol, glucagon and prolactin. However, it is cortisol that most affects modifying physical and mental functioning.

On the other hand, the sex hormones are also modified during stress states, such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

What is stress?

Stress it is a feeling of physical or emotional tension It can come from any situation or thought that causes feelings of anxiety, nervousness or frustration.

When a person suffers stress, not only does he experience psychological changes, but he undergoes alterations and physical changes. There is a stress of psychological origin, whereby an element perceived as stressful by the person gives rise to changes in physical and organic activity.

Further, in the prolonged situations, the hormones related to stress intervene. These hormones are responsible for these physical alterations.

What happens to hormones when there is stress?

The endocrine system is the one that is related to the states and stress responses. This system is activated when stressful situations appear and, as a result, accelerates the functioning of the adrenal glands.

This results in a chain reaction of the different hormones, being cortisol, the hormone that most alters the functioning of the body. Next, we talk about the four stress hormones.

1. Cortisol

Cortisol It is the stress hormone par excellence. The body manufactures it in emergency situations to help us face the problems and to give a quick and effective response. In this way, when we are stressed, the release of cortisol increases.

Under normal conditions, the cells of our body use 90% of the energy in metabolic activities as repair, renovation or formation of new fabrics.

But nevertheless, In situations of stress, our brain sends orders to release greater amounts of cortisol. This hormone is responsible for more glucose in the blood to send more energy to the muscles.

However, When we have stress on a regular basis, cortisol levels shoot up continuously, so we spend a lot of energy to release glucose into the blood, and the functions of recovery, renewal and creation of new tissues are paralyzed.

The first Symptoms of having high cortisol levels are:

  • Lack of sense of humor
  • Irritability.
  • Permanent tiredness
  • Headaches and muscle cramps.
  • Palpitations
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Digestive problems.

You may also be interested: 14 signals that indicate a high level of cortisol

2. Glucagón

The hormone called glucagon is synthesized in pancreas. Its main action focuses on the metabolism of carbohydrates.

Glucagon causes the liver to release glucose when our body needs it, either because of stress, or because blood glucose levels are low. This hormonal imbalance It can be dangerous in people who suffer from some type of diabetes.

3. Prolactin

Prolactin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. It is responsible for performing the stimulation of milk secretion of women during the period of lactation.

Thus, by increasing prolactin levels, the hormone that synthesizes the female sex hormones is inhibited. So that, high levels of stress can cause alterations of sexual desire, as well as the menstrual cycle.

4. Sex hormones

When there are long periods of stress, The sex hormones, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, have altered their normal functioning.

4.1. Testosterone

Testosterone, male sex hormone, is responsible for the development of male sexual characteristics, as well as the sexual response.

When there are high levels of stress, the production of testosterone decreases, since the body prioritizes the release of other hormones such as cortisol, more useful in the face of stress or danger. Therefore, sexual problems such as impotence, erectile dysfunction or lack of sexual desire can appear.

Read also: Role of testosterone in erectile dysfunction

4.2. Estrogens

High levels of stress decrease the release of estrogen, disrupting sexual functioning Normal of the woman.

4.3. Progesterone

Progesterone is produced in the ovaries and It is responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle. When the production of progesterone decreases, symptoms such as extreme fatigue, weight gain, headaches, alterations in mood and lack of sexual desire may appear.


Long periods of stress produce the release of hormones that they are capable of producing changes in the functioning of the organism.