Stress: Definition, Types, Causes, Symptoms, Consequences and Treatments

When tensions undermine our mental and physical health, it is bad for us.

What is stress?

We generally use the word “stress” when we feel that everything seems to have been too much: we are overburdened and we wonder if we can really cope with the pressures that are imposed on us.

Anything that represents a challenge or a threat to our well-being is a stress. Some tensions set you in motion and are good for you; Without any stress at all, many say that our lives would be boring and that you would probably feel meaningless.

What is good stress and bad stress?

Good stress : good stress helps us to carry out our daily tasks and reach those hard-to-reach goals. This stress, called eustress, helps us learn new things, adapt to change and participate in creative thinking. Everyone experiences good stress every day.

Another form of good stress is the one that allows us to survive in times of trauma. This stress makes us aware of the danger and allows us to escape when we need it.

Bad stress: bad forms of stress do not help us achieve goals or tasks, but actually inhibit our ability to function daily. Stress occurs when too much stress builds up around us.

Once the body feels that there is too much stress, it will begin to decompose, causing symptoms such as sweating, anxiety, headaches and rapid breathing. This type of stress can have a high cost on your physical and mental well-being.

Types of Stress

Acute stress

The most common form is acute stress. It manifests from recent events or with the expectation of upcoming events (ie stress in advance). Acute stress causes the release of chemicals that, in small doses, can be very useful, and can even save lives.

When the amount of acute stress has a limited duration, it can cause excitement or euphoria. However, large doses of acute stress are not stimulants. On the contrary, it can cause physical and mental fatigue.

Episodic acute stress

Acute episodic stress occurs in people who suffer frequent episodes of acute stress. People in this category are often referred to as lives full of chaos and crisis. Always in a hurry. Always worried about what can go wrong. Always being in a messy environment.

Having a high level of demand on them (by others or by their own expectations) can be attributed to episodic acute stress.

Imagine that a person is in an environment that is excessively noisy, bright, cold or windy. Repeated and / or prolonged exposure to these elements will generate stress.

Individuals who are repeatedly exposed to lights and sirens, hostile environments and psychological traumas may experience acute episodic stress due to repetitive and / or prolonged exposures.

Episodic acute stress may be aggravated by the personality traits of ‘Type A’. Type As are often characterized by being highly competitive, impatient and having a sense of urgency always present for everything, Type A can, at times, be aggressive and seemingly hostile, sometimes mildly, sometimes not.

Research on the cardiac impact of stress suggests that types A may be more prone to develop coronary artery disease compared to the more docile, relaxed and type B homologs.

For better or for worse, the public safety environment that encourages action, dizzying pace and high adrenaline is a magnet for people with Type A personalities.

Episodic acute stress can also manifest itself from chronic worry. Individuals can lull themselves and worry about the unfavorable results of everyday situations because they are exposed, repeatedly, to people who are experiencing unfavorable results in their daily lives.

Chronic stress

Chronic stress is never exciting. It devours you every day, year after year and can be tremendously destructive.

Chronic stress occurs when a person is in a repetitively stressful environment and can not see any way out of their situation. They feel trapped, so hopeless and so defenseless that they will really give up trying to find a solution.

Chronic undiagnosed and untreated stress leads to depression and suicide. Sometimes there are signs and symptoms, many times there are not.

Sadly, a person can become so accustomed to the feeling of chronic stress that they will feel uncomfortable when not in their stressful environment.

Other Types of Stress

Physical stress

A common type of stress is physical stress, which refers to real physical activities and events that wreak havoc on the human body. A good example is traveling. Traveling frequently can send you to different time zones, which makes sleep and wakefulness difficult.

Physical stress also includes stress caused by sleeping too much, not getting enough sleep, spending too many hours standing or working long hours.

If you’ve ever spent a day chasing your children at an amusement park or stuck at an airport and dealing with flight delays, you’ve probably experienced physical stress.

Emotional stress

Of all the different types of stress, emotional stress is the most common. This can happen after an intense break or a divorce, losing a loved one, fighting with your spouse or experiencing any other problem that makes you feel depressed or anxious.

Emotional stress often manifests in the same way as depression. You may experience weight changes, changes in the way you sleep or how much you sleep, feelings of isolation and mood swings. Emotional stress can also occur when you feel overwhelmed at home or at work.

Traumatic stress

When thinking about the types of stress, many people do not think about traumatic stress. Traumatic stress is a type of stress that occurs due to some type of trauma in the human body and can cause intense pain, coma or even death. It is often related to some kind of physical change that occurs.

If you went through an operation, your body may experience stress until it recovers from that surgery. A car accident, second or third degree burns or even a case of pneumonia can cause traumatic stress.

Who is more vulnerable to stress?

Stress comes in many forms and affects people of all ages and lifestyles. External standards can not be applied to predict stress levels in people.

To generalize, people without adequate social support report a high level of stress.

People who are poorly nourished, who sleep inadequately or who are physically ill also have a reduced ability to handle the pressures and stress of everyday life and may report higher levels of stress.


Common external causes of stress

  • Important changes in life.
  • Relationship complexities
  • Children and family
  • Financial problems.
  • Work or school.
  • Be too busy

Common internal causes of stress

  • Pessimism.
  • Constant worry.
  • Unpractical expectations
  • Rigid thinking
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Attitude of all or nothing.

Signs and symptoms

The physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Headaches.
  • Low energy.
  • Insomnia .
  • Stomach of anguish, that is, constipation , diarrhea and nausea.
  • Pain in the chest and accelerated heart rate.
  • Pains in the body and stressed muscles.
  • Recurrent infections and colds.
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Sensation of restlessness and chills, cold and sweaty hands and feet and buzzing in the ear.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Jaw blocked and teeth grinding.

The emotional symptoms of stress include:

  • Temperamental.
  • Frustrated easily
  • Feeling that you need to take control or lose control.
  • Restless mind.
  • Feeling bad about yourself
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Lonely.
  • Depressed.
  • Isolation.

Cognitive symptoms of stress include:

  • Regular concern.
  • Fighting with thoughts.
  • Lack of attention and ineffectiveness.
  • The lack of ability to focus.
  • Lack of criteria.
  • Be negative.

Behavioral symptoms of stress include:

  • Alterations in the appetite.
  • Defer and avoid responsibilities.
  • Increase in the intake of drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.
  • Show more nervous manners, such as restlessness and nail bites.


A slight stress sometimes is not something to worry about. However, constant and interminable stress may be the reason or worsen several serious health problems, such as:

In health:

  • Mental health problems
  • Cardiovascular diseases.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Eating disorders and obesity .
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Menstrual problems
  • Hair and skin problems

In relationships:

  • Poor quality of marriage.
  • Recurring feelings of anger, frustration and irritability.
  • Low communication quality
  • Confidence problems
  • Intimacy problems.
  • Decrease in marital satisfaction.

At work, stress affects your ability to retain information, process new information and apply both to critical circumstances and to physical work that requires concentration.

Control stress and anxiety

How to manage stress and anxiety?

When you are anxious or stressed, these tips will surely help you deal with them:

  • Have a rest, learn yoga, meditate, listen to soft music, experience a body massage or practice some relaxation techniques. These activities will calm you down and clear your mind.
  • Eat nutritious foods. Do not skip meals.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol intake because they can increase anxiety.
  • Sleep well. This will relax your mind and body.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Take deep breaths slowly.
  • Be optimistic at all times.
  • Smile often. Learn to appreciate small things.
  • Accept the fact that you can not control all the things around you.
  • Do not look for perfection because it is impossible. Unsatisfied expectation will lead to disappointment and then stress.
  • Participate and be active in your community; This will give you a break from everyday stress.
  • Talk to a close friend or a member of your family. You can also seek help with a counselor.
  • You can take antidepressants because it helps control the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. This in turn improves your moods.

What is work stress?

Work stress is defined as the stress that is generated due to conflicting demands at work. The amount of control that employees have over their workflow can affect the importance of work stress.

While all work has an element of stress, the real work stress is harmful, as an employee has emotional and physical reactions to the demands of work that are difficult to control.

Multiple sources of work stress

Work stress comes from many sources. Some of the most common sources of work-related stress include:

Environmental stress: some of the factors that people experience in the workplace are related to the physical environment in which they work.

This type of stress can be associated with safety problems in the workplace, the configuration of one’s work area, the type of furniture or equipment that should be used to perform work functions and other variables.

Uncertainty : People who are not sure of their position in their jobs often experience a high degree of work stress. This problem may be related to the fear of losing a job, the expectation of recognition or promotion, the lack of feedback on the performance of one or other problems.

Problems with people: a lot of stress in the workplace is related to people’s problems, such as dealing with difficult co-workers, dealing with a negative or uncommunicative supervisor, peer pressure and more.

Performance pressure : the feeling of pressure to produce a certain quality or quantity of work can be a stressor in the workplace. This can be linked to sales or production quotas, manufacturing standards, impending deadlines and other factors.

What is oxidative stress?

Just as an apple turns brown when exposed to air, our cells can “oxidize” when we breathe due to oxidative stress, a process caused by free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage or “oxidize” cells throughout the body in a process called oxidative stress. Over time, oxidative stress can leave our cells and tissues unable to function properly.

What is PTSD?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder related to trauma and stress that may develop after exposure to an event or ordeal in which death, serious physical harm or violence occurred or were threatened.

Traumatic events that can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder include violent personal aggressions, natural or unnatural disasters, accidents or military combat.

PTSD affects approximately 8 million American adults and can occur at any age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop the disorder than men, and there is some evidence that it can be hereditary.

PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse or anxiety disorders . When other conditions are diagnosed and treated appropriately, the likelihood of successful treatment increases.

When symptoms develop immediately after exposure and persist for up to a month, the condition can be called acute stress disorder.

PTSD is diagnosed when stress symptoms after exposure persist for more than a month. Delayed expression of PTSD can occur if symptoms appear six months or more after the onset of trauma.


Many people with post-traumatic stress disorder tend to re-experience aspects of the traumatic event, especially when they are exposed to events or objects that recall the trauma.

The anniversaries of the event, the similarities in person, place or circumstance can also trigger symptoms.

People with PTSD also experience intrusive memories or retrospective memories, emotional numbness, sleep disturbances , anxiety, intense guilt, sadness, irritability or outbursts of anger and dissociative experiences.

Many people with PTSD may try to avoid situations that remind them of the ordeal. When the symptoms last more than a month, a diagnosis of PTSD may be relevant.

Symptoms associated with reliving the traumatic event:

  • Have bad dreams or anguished memories about the event.
  • Behave or feel as if the event actually happened again (known as flashbacks).
  • Dissociative reactions or loss of awareness of the current environment.
  • Have many emotional feelings when the event is remembered.
  • Having many physical sensations when the event is remembered (the heart beats or loses a beat, sweats, has difficulty breathing, feels weak, feels a loss of control).

Symptoms related to the prevention of reminders of the traumatic event:

  • Avoid thoughts, conversations or feelings about the event.
  • Avoid people, activities or places associated with the event.

Symptoms related to negative changes in thinking or mood:

  • Having difficulty remembering an important part of the original trauma.
  • Feeling numb or separated from things.
  • Lack of interest in social activities.
  • Inability to experience positive moods.
  • Pessimism about the future.

Symptoms of excitation and reactivity:

  • Difficulty sleeping, including problems falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Irritability and outbursts of anger.
  • Difficult to focus.
  • Sensation easily startled.
  • Excess of conscience ( hypervigilance ).

Other symptoms related to depersonalization (feeling as an observer of the body and thoughts / feelings) or derealization (experiencing the unreality of the environment) may also exist for some people.


Treatment for PTSD usually begins with a detailed evaluation and the development of a treatment plan that meets the unique needs of the survivor. The main treatments for people with PTSD are psychotherapy, medication or both.

Due to differences in experience and consequences of trauma, treatment varies and adapts to the individual’s symptoms and needs. Treatment by a mental health care provider with experience in PTSD allows people to lead a more balanced and functional life.

Some people with PTSD may need to try different treatments to see what works for their symptoms.

If someone with PTSD goes through ongoing trauma, such as being in an abusive relationship, treatment may include helping to find safety.

Specific treatment for PTSD can begin only when the survivor safely withdraws from the crisis situation. People who experience other symptoms of a panic disorder, depression, substance abuse and suicidal feelings may need treatment to also focus on those problems.


The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two medications for the treatment of adults with PTSD, sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) who are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Both medications are antidepressants, which are also used to treat depression.

They can help control the symptoms of PTSD such as sadness, worry, anger and the feeling of insensibility inside. The use of medications in conjunction with therapy or before starting therapy may facilitate the effective use of the treatment.

If an antidepressant is prescribed, it may have to be taken for several days or weeks before you notice a significant improvement.

It is important not to get discouraged and stop taking medications prematurely before they have had the opportunity to work. A setting in the dosage or a change to another SSRI can help solve these problems.

Occasionally, people who take these medications have side effects. The effects can be annoying, but they usually disappear. However, medications affect everyone differently. Any side effect or unusual reaction should be reported to a doctor immediately.


Therapy is well considered in the treatment of PTSD. It involves talking with a mental health professional to work through the experience and its impact on the individual. Psychotherapy can occur individually or in a group format.

Therapy for PTSD usually lasts until the individual has learned to manage and cope with their experience and can be more functional.

Many types of psychotherapy can help people with PTSD. Some types focus directly on the symptoms of PTSD. Other therapies focus on social, family or work-related problems. The doctor or therapist can combine different therapies depending on the needs of each person.