When Conflict Takes a Toll – the impact of stress on our mental and physical health

Jun 05, 2023
couples conflict


Have you ever considered how the stress of ongoing couple conflict can affect your mental and physical wellbeing? 

It's important to recognise that when we're stuck in continuous cycles of conflict, our body and mind pay a hefty price. The more we understand this, the better equipped we'll be to break the patterns of couple conflict and create healthier relationships. 

The survival response of fight or flight that we experience during conflict can easily become a part of our relationship fabric.  

But it’s not just the fights that do this. Following many episodes of conflict, our view of our partner and our relationship will also change. This is because we create stories in our mind about them being mean, selfish, thoughtless, cruel, or inadequate.  

These narratives are influenced by our ego, and they are harmful to our relationship as they affect our behaviour towards our partner. And they’re also harmful towards ourselves, as the more our ego creates negative narratives about our partner and our relationship, the more likely we are to have heightened stress.  

Research has shown that long-term stress, and this includes distress, takes a toll on our mental and physical health. What’s happening is that our amygdalae, which are responsible for our fight or flight response, are constantly on alert for threats.  

The amygdalae are a crucial part of our limbic system – our emotional centre – and they experience stress (and distress) as a threat. Let that sink in for a moment. Our body responds to stress as if it’s a threat to our lives, and this is where our fight or flight survival response is triggered.     

Each time we face conflict with our partner and each time we tell negative stories about our partner or the relationship, we are stressing ourselves out. The resulting stress can leave us with a physical, emotional, and behavioural hangover, just like it does for Alma, Barny, Sharma and Jack. 

So, let’s look at these 3 areas affected by stress 

1. Physically, the stress from conflict can manifest as headaches, back pain, fatigue, insomnia, digestive problems, or even a decreased libido. Although we may seek treatment from healthcare professionals or take time off work, the root cause of our stress may remain unaddressed. 

2. Our emotions can also be altered from stress from conflict. This can lead to anxiety, and changes in our mood - sadness, depression, irritability, and anger.   

3. As a result, our behaviour may change – we might experience angry outbursts, withdraw from social situations, or turn to food, drugs, or alcohol as coping mechanisms. 

Break free from the damaging cycle of conflict. Explore our course, "Transforming Couple Communication" to unravel the impact of stress on your mental and physical well-being. Navigate through the complexities of conflict, reshape negative narratives, and build healthier relationships. Click here to embark on a transformative journey towards improved communication and lasting connection.

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