Harper Jefcoat
Harper Jefcoat

Stress - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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13 min read


On This Page

  • Define Stress - What is Mental Stress?
  • Types of Stress
  • Effects of Stress - What happens to the Body during Stress?
  • Symptoms of Stress - What are the Early Warning Signs of Stress?
  • Causes of Stress - What are the Main Causes of Stress?
  • Diagnosis and Treatment - How is Stress Diagnosed and Treated?
  • Stress Management - How to Manage Stress Effectively?

Stress is a normal human emotion that affects us both physically and mentally. It is a form of self-defense that the body uses when coping with a stressful event or situation. It is considered one of the most common mental disorders that afflict more than three fourth of the nation.

It could happen due to any reason and it affects people of all ages. Since it is such a common mental condition, people often do not respond at once, resulting in more serious mental conditions.

Since it affects both adults and children, kids are at risk of developing an anxiety disorder, depression, and chronic stress.

Know more about stress and ways to manage it successfully.

Define Stress - What is Mental Stress?

According to the American Psychological Association, it is a normal and usual response of the human mind in a stressful situation. This could be anything and especially when a person is in a new situation.

It is not as severe and consistent as an anxiety disorder or depression and, usually, goes away after some time.

Our body is designed to react to difficult and stressful situations and it does it by producing stress. It results in several mental and physical responses, also known as self-defense responses.

Stress responses help us adjust to the situation and keep us alert and ready.

How does Stress Differ from other Emotional Responses?

Many people think that all mental and mood disorders are the same, which is wrong. All of these emotional responses are different from each other in a lot of ways. On the surface, all of these look similar but they differ in reasons, symptoms, duration, and treatment.

Below, we have explained the differences between the main types of responses.

Difference between Different Emotional Responses
StressA normal response to difficult and novel situations and is often short-term.
DepressionIt is categorized with feelings of sadness, anger, and loss.
DistressWhen stress is severe or prolonged, or both then it takes on the form of distress.
Anxiety DisorderA constant state of stress categorized with constant worry and unnecessary feelings of threat.
BurnoutChronic job stress identified with exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of failed or lessened professional or work capability.
TraumaSevere and could occur due to a terrible accident, loss of a loved one, or physical assault.

People use some of these terms interchangeably but all of them are different from each other. And some of them are severe also.

Constant stress could lead to serious mental conditions like depression, insomnia, and schizophrenia.

Types of Stress

Below are the main types of stress that may be affecting your health in many ways.

Psychological Stress - this kind of stress is based on emotional and cognitive stress. Some causes include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Grief
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Self-doubt
  • Frustration
  • Attachment
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness

Psychosocial Stress - people suffering from difficult relationships suffer from this kind of stress. These relationships could be of any kind like spouses, family members, and employers. Some main causes include:

  • Loss of loved and closed one
  • Unemployment or loss of job
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Lack of social support

Physical Stress - it involves stress due to some physical reaction or reason. These reasons include:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Dehydration
  • Dental issues
  • Fatigue
  • Surgery
  • Infection
  • Injuries
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Environmental stress
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Intense physical activity or labor

Acute Stress - this kind is quite severe and due to this, it demands immediate reaction from the body. This could either be negative and positive and could be triggered due to any kind of situation.

Episodic Acute Stress - it happens when people experience acute stress frequently. People who are anxious, short-tempered, and have irritable personalities experience this kind of stress.

Usually, they are quite negative and pessimistic, and they worry about everything.

Chronic Stress - this could result in a number of other health issues like several heart diseases, depression, and others. Prolonged acute stress transforms into chronic stress and the main reasons behind it are:

  • Unhappy marriage or failed relationships
  • Financial issues
  • Broken family
  • Bad work environment

All of these kinds of stress are caused due to different reasons. However, you can cope with them effectively by following some stress management tactics.

Effects of Stress - What happens to the Body during Stress?

Stress affects our body in a number of ways. Our nervous system controls the responses of our body, including the stress response. Usually, it is the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. This helps us in facing stressful and difficult situations and coping with them.

When a person experiences stress constantly, his body remains in a constant state of stress or tension. This takes a heavy toll on the person’s overall health and causes damage to the body.

‘What are the negative effects of stress?’ Below are some common consequences of constant stress.

Headaches - stress could trigger and worsen headaches.

Increase in Depression - chronic and constant stress could take a toll on your health and lead you to depression.

Heartburn - the acid in the stomach increases as a result of stress, leading to heartburn and other health problems.

Insomnia - stress is one of the top reasons for insomnia. It makes it difficult for the person to fall asleep and maintain it. With time, this leads to insomnia.

Rapid Breathing - when stressed, the muscles that are involved in the breathing process are tensed up. This could leave you out or short of breath.

Weakness in the Immune System - constant and chronic stress weakens the immune system. It makes a person more vulnerable to various infections and diseases.

Increased Blood Sugar - due to stress, the liver produces more sugar or glucose. Due to its increased amount in the bloodstream, the person is at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Increased Risk of Heart Attack - frequent heart-pounding and increased blood sugar could increase the risk of a heart attack.

Rapid Pounding of the Heart - it causes the heart to pump blood faster. When it happens repeatedly, this could harm the proper and normal working of the heart.

Stomach Ache or Cramps - due to stress, many people experience symptoms like nausea, stomach cramps, and other digestive problems.

Fertility Problems - it could disrupt the reproductive system and cause low sex drive and hormonal imbalance.

Tensed Muscles - prolonged periods of tensed muscles could result in backaches, headaches, and other muscles related issues.

Stress is very common and any event or circumstance could cause it. These circumstances could be anything from everyday life. Since these reasons could be quite minor, many people ignore the early warning signs.

Symptoms of Stress - What are the Early Warning Signs of Stress?

Probably the most dangerous thing about stress is that it could creep on you easily. It starts with normal and everyday things and with time, people get used to it. They do not notice the warning signs and the toll stress is taking on their health.

To intervene in due time and to manage it properly, it is important to identify the early signs. Usually, they are easy to ignore but could have dangerous effects on your health, both physically and mentally.

Below are the core symptoms of stress.

Emotional Symptoms of Stress

  • Frustration
  • Mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feelings of loss of control
  • Difficulties in relaxing and taking control of your mind
  • Low self-esteem, feelings of loneliness, and worthlessness
  • Depression
  • Ignoring others
  • Anxiety
  • Mental and emotional issues

Physical Symptoms of Stress

  • Low or loss of energy
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues like stomachaches, constipation, nausea, and diarrhea
  • Pain in muscles
  • Sleep disorders
  • Dizziness
  • Frequent infections
  • Infertility and loss of sex drive in both men and women
  • Heart pounding and chest pains
  • Nervousness, cold and sweaty hands and feet, and ringing in the ears
  • Difficulties in swallowing and dry mouth
  • Grinding of teeth and clenching of the jaw

Cognitive Symptoms of Stress

  • Constant worrying
  • Racing and uncontrolled thoughts
  • Poor focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Forgetfulness
  • Disorganization
  • Pessimistic thoughts

Behavioral Symptoms of Stress

  • Feeling too much or too less hungry
  • Failing to fulfill responsibilities
  • Procrastinating
  • Increased usage of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs
  • Exhibiting nervous behavior like nail-biting, pacing, and fidgeting
  • Sleeping either too much or too less
  • Withdrawing and limiting yourself from others

Besides, there could be a number of other signs and symptoms of stress and they could be different for everyone.

Causes of Stress - What are the Main Causes of Stress?

‘How to identify causes of stress?’ It depends on a number of factors and everyone has different stress triggers. This includes both personal and professional reasons with work-related stress topping the list.

Reportedly, about 40% of the workers in the US reported having a high-stress level related to work and office. About one-third of the people reported that work is the biggest source of stress for them.

Causes of Stress in the Workplace

  • Being unhappy in the job
  • Heavy workload
  • Excessive responsibilities
  • Long work hours
  • Poor management
  • Unclear or excessive expectations
  • Dangerous working conditions
  • Being insecure about your job and promotion
  • Facing discrimination and harassment at work

Causes of Personal Stress

  • Death of a closed or loved one
  • Divorce or other marital issues
  • Loss of the job
  • Financial burden
  • Getting married
  • Moving to a new city or house
  • Shifting to a new job
  • Chronic health issue
  • Emotional instabilities like depression, anger, anxiety, grief, and low self-esteem
  • Looking after a sick, and elderly family member
  • Going through a traumatic event like a natural disaster, sexual assault, or violence

Internal Causes of Stress

  • Pessimism and negative thoughts
  • Failure to accept uncertainty
  • Lack of flexibility and overly rigid thoughts and beliefs
  • Improper behavior and attitude
  • Overly stressing on perfectionism
  • Being too hard on yourself

Causes of Stress in Students

  • Upcoming examinations
  • Short and approaching deadlines
  • Managing both work and study
  • Difficulties in managing the work
  • Improper time management
  • Excessive debts
  • Poor housing conditions
  • Overcrowding
  • Noise pollution
  • Adjusting to a new life and schedule
  • Difficulties with personal relationships
  • Familial pressure
  • Lack of support
  • Improper sleep schedule
  • Heavy workload

Causes of Teenage Stress

  • School and homework
  • Expectations and pressure from peers, teachers, and parents
  • Social relationships; friends and girlfriends/boyfriends
  • Sports and other commitments
  • Challenges like taking on a part-time job, leaving school, joining a new school or college
  • Lack of time and work overload
  • Lack of proper sleep
  • Family financial crisis
  • Divorce or separation of the parents
  • Hormonal changes
  • Chronic health condition
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of a loved one

There could be a number of other causes of long-term stress.

Diagnosis and Treatment - How is Stress Diagnosed and Treated?

Stress is different from other kinds of illnesses. There are no standard tests to test stress and the doctor will diagnose it based on your symptoms.

The doctor will ask you about the symptoms and the things that are causing stress. Diagnosing stress could be really hard. To acquire as accurate as possible results, doctors use methods like questionnaires, physiological techniques, and biochemical measures. But these methods are not objective.

As of now, the most effective way of diagnosing stress is a one-on-one interview.

For the treatment, the following methods are used.

  • Medication like antidepressants
  • Aromatherapy
  • Reflexology

Despite the medication and other therapies, stress management strategies remain the topmost methods of coping with it. And an emotional support animal can also help.

Stress Management - How to Manage Stress Effectively?

Stress management is more crucial than medication and other short-term therapies. It is unlike any other mental disorder. It could be diagnosed by testing and treated with medication, self-management therapies, and techniques.

Below are some of the top stress management techniques that you could do at home and deal with stress easily.

1. Exercise - exercise and physical activity is an excellent way of coping with stress. A daily 30-minute walk or workout session will help in releasing good hormones in your body and manage your mood. Some good exercises include swimming, walking, dancing, and running.

2. Eat Healthily - it is said that you are what you eat. Having a well-balanced diet that is rich in nutrients is a great way of staying away from diet-related diseases.

Having processed food, refined carbohydrates, and sugar would worsen the symptoms of stress. Consuming fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality carbohydrates and protein, and omega-3 fatty acids will help you in coping with stress.

3. Connect - communicating with others is an excellent way of getting the needed help and support. Due to stress, many people isolate themselves, which is wrong. Find support groups and talk about your symptoms.

Sometimes, people have unexpected ways and solutions to help you cope with stress in a better way.

4. Listen to Music - listening to music is one of the best stress therapies. Different types of music provide different kinds of stress relief. Fast and upbeat music makes you feel optimistic and positive. Slow music helps in relieving the muscles and quieting the mind.

Interestingly, Weightless by Marconi Union is found to reduce stress by up to 60%, which is quite A LOT.

5. Meditate - meditation is ideal for relaxing your mind. It relaxes your mind and you start to feel tranquility. It helps in clearing jumbled thoughts and bringing about long-lasting resilience.

Besides, it also enhances mental and physical well-being.

6. Get some Sleep - stress leads to sleep disorders, and vice versa. Getting proper sleep is important for a calm mind. Sometimes, lack of sleep also results in stress.

To maintain proper sleep, avoid using the phone immediately before sleeping, late meals, and any such activities.

7. Try Yoga - besides meditation and deep breaths, yoga also helps in quieting your mind and relaxing your thoughts. The best time of doing it is early morning before you start your day.

8. Reduce Alcohol, Drugs, and Caffeine - alcohol, caffeine, and drugs interfere with sleep and proper mental health. They could increase anxiety and, therefore, limiting or removing them completely will help in bettering the symptoms.

9. Talk to your Doctor - talking to your doctor is also helpful in many cases. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps in reducing stress by changing the way a person thinks.

10. Play with your Pet - animals are known for providing emotional and mental relaxation. Spending time and playing with your animal helps in reducing cortisol, the stress hormone, and blood pressure. This normalizes the heart rate and reduces stress.

Besides pets, emotional support animals also help to relax your mind and manage stress and your health effectively. You can check different types of animals as ESA and choose the one that suits your preference.

Stress management is important because there is no cure for it. You will have to adopt different techniques to manage it properly, and this includes getting an ESA also.

These animals provide sensory stress relief and petting them calms the senses. To get one for yourself, fill the online questionnaire and see if you qualify.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does stress affect your body?

FAQ Icon

Chronic stress could cause several health issues like mental problems, depression, anxiety, personality disorder, and cardiovascular diseases.

How to cope with stress in everyday life?

FAQ Icon

Coping with stress is a lifelong practice since stress is inevitable. Some effective ways of doing it are to stay calm, have a balanced diet, daily exercise, yoga, and meditation. And avoiding excessive alcohol, drugs, and caffeine.

How can a doctor help you with stress?

FAQ Icon

A doctor would prescribe some medication like sleeping pills, antidepressants, and minor tranquilizers to calm your nerves. He will also help to minimize the consequences like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and high blood pressure.

What kind of exercise is the best for relieving stress?

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Some top workouts that work the best in minimizing stress include yoga, kickboxing, gardening, pilates, tai chi, and dancing.

What are the four A’s of stress management?

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The four A’s of stress management are:

  • Avoid
  • Alter
  • Accept
  • Adapt

Mastering these four A’s will help you control and manage your stress in a far better and effective way.

Harper Jefcoat


Harper Jefcoat

Harper Jefcoat is a dedicated pet enthusiast and expert author at the RealESALetter.com. With a deep-seated passion for animals, Harper brings a wealth of knowledge and personal experience to his writings. Specializing in canine behavior and wellness, he aims to help pet owners understand and care for their furry friends better.

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