Stress-Related Problems

Originally, the term “stress” was used in the field of engineering to describe the weight or force necessary to cause something to bend or break. Then, in the mid-twentieth century, researchers began using the term in a similar way to describe forces or events that cause comparable responses in living beings, including humans. These days, “stress” is often defined as a state of general arousal or heightened experience that causes mental strain, emotional anxiety, fear, physical tension, exhaustion, and illness, as well as behaviors related to these symptoms.


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Four different types of stressors, or a combination of them, are responsible for most stress-related problems: social stressors, environmental stressors, physical stressors, and cognitive stressors. Social stressors are emotionally arousing events that occur in situations such as relationships, friendships, and the workplace. Environmental stressors are arousing sensory stimuli, such as noise, traffic, smells, and pollution. Physical stressors put excessive demands on the body and include things like illness, poor nutrition, and insufficient exercise. Cognitive stressors put excessive demands on a person’s thinking abilities, as a result of thoughts such as “Everything is overwhelming and I can’t handle it.”

Despite the unpleasant and sometimes dangerous effects of stress, it’s important to recognize that the stress response is a normal reaction that happens to everyone. It’s not something that only happens to people who are weak willed. In fact, stress can be caused by generally happy events just as easily as it can be caused by sad or frightening events. One study found that generally positive events such as marriage, retirement, pregnancy, promotions, personal achievement, and vacations were often equally as stressful as generally negative events, such as getting divorced, changing jobs, and experiencing the death of a loved one. Therefore, it’s easy to understand why so many people feel stressed-out in modern society. In addition to these big events, there are also the many daily hassles each person has to deal with, like traffic, waiting in line, dealing with rude people, and paying bills. Some researchers think that it might be the cumulative effect of all these stressful situations, big and small, that eventually takes its toll on our minds and bodies.

So, what makes an event like a wedding or an illness more stressful for one person than it is for another? The answer generally depends on the person’s perception of his or her ability to cope with the event. Those who think they can successfully handle a potentially stressful event will most likely deal with that situation with less stressful consequences, whereas those who think they can’t cope will experience the situation as more stressful—even if they really do have the skills to handle it.

Everyone experiences some kind of stress during life. Sometimes the stressor will disappear on its own, like a brief earthquake, and other times it may be long-term, like going to work every day. Most of the time, stressors have only limited and minimal effects, especially if the person has good coping skills. However, the long-term effects of chronic stress can be potentially damaging. Examples of chronic stress include living with a long-term illness like cancer or depression, dealing with problematic relationships, living in poverty, being unemployed, and living in a place that is effected by war.


This website is for informational purposes only and does not provide an official diagnosis. Anyone struggling with a physical or mental health problem should seek the services of a medical or psychological professional as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you’re having thoughts about suicide or hurting someone else, please see our crisis resources list, contact your local emergency services, or go to a local hospital immediately.