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The Signs And Symptoms Of High Cortisol Levels

Posted by Kelsey Juntwait on

High cortisol levels (especially over longer periods of time) can leave lasting effects on that body. SO it's important to know how exactly to recognize when your body is actually struggling with higher than normal cortisol levels.

Here are the signs and symptoms of high cortisol levels:


When cortisol levels remain elevated for prolonged periods in the body, it can disrupt the balance of other hormones such as progesterone and testosterone, leading to increased activity of sebaceous glands and production of oil. This clogs pores and causes acne. Furthermore, high cortisol levels can also weaken the immune system, making the skin more susceptible to infections that can exacerbate acne.

Brittle Skin

High cortisol levels can interfere with the production of collagen, which is essential for maintaining the elasticity and strength of skin. This means that high cortisol levels will cause skin to become dry, thin, and fragile, while also appearing translucent. Additionally, cortisol can lead to reduced skin thickness and impaired wound-healing ability. 

Easy Bruising

Cortisol levels also impair wound-healing ability of the body by weakening the walls of blood vessels and making them more vulnerable to damage. As mentioned above, high cortisol levels can also reduce the production of collagen, which is integral for the strength and elasticity of skin cells, making the skin thinner and more susceptible to injury. Additionally, high cortisol levels can inhibit the activity of platelets, which are responsible for clotting blood, further increasing the likelihood of bruising. 

Flushed Face

When cortisol levels are high, blood vessels dilate, causing the blood flow to increase, leaving the skin of the face reddened and flushed. This effect is often referred to as the "fight or flight" response, which is triggered when the body perceives a threat. While this response is a natural and necessary part of our survival instincts, prolonged periods of elevated cortisol levels can be detrimental to our health.

Muscle Weakness

When cortisol levels remain high for prolonged periods, it can lead to muscle weakness, particularly in the legs and arms. This occurs due to the catabolic effects of cortisol, which results in the breakdown of muscle protein. High cortisol levels can also lead to muscle wasting, reduced muscle mass and strength, and delayed muscle recovery. Additionally, cortisol can impair the communication between nerves and muscles leading to decreased neuromuscular functioning, contributing to muscle weakness.


Cortisol plays a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions, including blood sugar levels, immune response, and inflammation. However, chronic stress can lead to excess cortisol production, which can result in various health problems, including fatigue. High cortisol levels can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle and lead to insomnia or disturbed sleep. Furthermore, cortisol also affects the production of other hormones, such as adrenaline and thyroid hormones, which play essential roles in energy metabolism. Thus, elevated cortisol levels can result in a reduced metabolism and decreased physical activity, contributing to fatigue.


Cortisol can cause constriction of blood vessels in the brain, leading to tension headaches or migraines. Moreover, high cortisol levels can also trigger inflammation in the brain, causing headaches associated with autoimmune disorders. Additionally, stress and high cortisol levels can affect sleep patterns, which can also contribute to headaches.

Weight Gain

When cortisol levels are high, it can lead to increased appetite, and the body tends to store excess calories as fat, especially in the abdomen area. This type of weight gain is called visceral fat, and it's associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health issues. High cortisol levels can also lead to decreased muscle mass, which further adds to weight gain. 

Inability To Lose Weight

High cortisol levels can lead to an increased appetite, particularly for sugary, fatty foods that can disrupt the body's normal metabolic processes. Additionally, high cortisol levels can increase insulin resistance, making it harder for your body to regulate blood sugar levels. This metabolic dysfunction can make it difficult for you to lose weight or maintain weight loss. Furthermore, elevated cortisol levels can also cause inflammation, which can contribute to the development of obesity and other health problems. Therefore, if you are struggling to lose weight despite efforts to eat healthily and exercise regularly, high cortisol levels may be a contributing factor that you should consider.

A variety of the symptoms mentioned above may lead to an increased risk of developing certain health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. In women, high cortisol can cause irregular menstruation and decreased libido. So it's necessary to find ways to address these high levels of cortisol if the above symptoms persist.

Lowering stress levels and practicing relaxation techniques can significantly improve cortisol levels and overall health.

Lower your cortisol levels with a 30-day somatic exercise program!