Whether you have a deadline looming or you’ve offered to help at the local cookout, when we face events that we consider stressful, our bodies release hormones from the adrenal gland that trigger a fight or flight response. One of these hormones being cortisol, also fittingly known as the stress hormone, as levels are known to rise during times of stress. Once the stressful event is out of the way, cortisol levels typically go back to normal.

Some people however experience high cortisol levels over a period of time, this can happen for a variety of reasons that usually aren’t stress-related, including the use of oral corticosteroid medication. Too much cortisol causes Cushing syndrome or hypercortisolism, and there are a number of signs associated with the condition, including weight gain or fragile skin.

Related article: Five Signs of Stress: How Stress Affects Your Body

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What happens when you have too much cortisol?

If you are experiencing a stressful event, this will usually cause your cortisol levels to temporarily rise above their normal levels. Of course, this can result in a number of signs and symptoms, both physical and mental, these include:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Tense muscles
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings

Related article: Is Your Stress Hormone Working on Overdrive?

Cushing syndrome, or hypercortisolism, occurs when your body has too much cortisol over a certain period of time. This condition can result from taking oral corticosteroid medication or as a result of your body’s own overproduction.

While there are a number of different symptoms, most will vary depending on your unique situation and how high your levels of cortisol are [2]. Still, according to Mayo Clinic, some of the most common include:

  • Weight gain
  • Fragile skin
  • Pink or purple stretch marks
  • A ‘buffalo hump’ between the shoulders
  • Slow healing of cuts, bites, or infections
  • Acne
  • Severe fatigue
  • Muscle weakness

Related article: 6 Surprising Reasons You’re Gaining Weight (Besides Your Diet)

Are there complications associated with too much cortisol?

The right treatment can help return your cortisol levels to a healthy range and improve any symptoms associated with the condition. Without treatment, there are some complications that can occur, including:

  • Frequent infection
  • Loss of strength
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis

How do you moderate cortisol levels?

If you are experiencing high cortisol levels over time, it’s important to know that there are a number of treatments available that can help lower high levels of cortisol. Of course, the treatment will depend on your individual circumstances, including the cause of Cushing’s syndrome. Some of the most common treatments used to moderate cortisol levels may include:

  • Reducing corticosteroid use
  • Specific medications
  • Surgery (if the condition has been caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland)

If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of Cushing syndrome, it’s important to know more. This can be done by taking a trip to the doctor or from home with an at-home lab test.

LetsGetChecked’s at-home Cortisol Test can measure adrenal performance or stress with online results available within 2-5 days and access to our medical experts every step of the way.

You should consider taking the test if:

  • You constantly feel run down
  • You are body-building competitively
  • You are presenting with symptoms of Cushing syndrome
  • You have Cushing syndrome
  • You are presenting with symptoms of Addison's disease
  • You have Addison's disease
  • You take or have been taking testosterone

Related article: How do you Check Cortisol Levels From Home?

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Buy an At-Home Cortisol Test

Our at-home test can measure adrenal performance or stress with online results in 5 days.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Cushing Syndrome. Online: Mayoclinic.org, 2019
  2. Mayo Clinic. Cushing Syndrome. Online: Mayoclinic.org, 2019
  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Cushing’s Syndrome. Online: Niddk.nih.gov, 2018