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Stress


Stress is a response to excessive pressures and demands and can affect the way people feel. Experiences of stress can be neutral, negative or positive but prolonged stress can lead to physical, psychological and emotional problems. Stress results from a person's interaction with their environment and other people.
Stress

In This Article
Watch the stress video Causes of stress
Symptoms of stress Diagnosing stress
Related Terms

                   

Did you know?
  • 75% of GP reported illness is stress related
  • Rush hour traffic is one of the most stressful situations
  • Stress is ahead of the common cold as a reason for time off
  • Sick leave from stress costs British industry £13 billion per year
  • Over 13% of people believe their job to be very or extremely stressful


There are numerous factors that can cause stress and the most common are work, relationships and finances. Stress can be caused by life changing events such as divorce, redundancy and moving house or by minor irritations that accumulate over time. Any experience or situation that a person views as a threat to their coping mechanism can give rise to stress. Stress-related diseases result from constant pressure or demands on an individual's ability to cope.

Stress can also be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle (smoking for example) and poor diet. Some people become stressed because of being unhealthy while others adopt an unhealthy lifestyle (e.g. alcohol and drug abuse) as a way to cope with their stress.


When stressed, there are various associated physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms. Physically, the body produces higher levels of chemicals that prepare it to 'fight or flight' - a throw-back to cave dwelling ancestors who were faced with life-threatening danger. During a stressful situation, the body attempts to cope by releasing adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals cause various physical reactions such as muscle tension, heightened senses, rapid breathing and increased heart rate.

If stress is prolonged, a build up of these chemicals causes physical and mental problems. People suffering with stress can experience headaches, digestion problems, tiredness, fatigue, nausea, muscle spasms and sleep loss. Long-term, these problems can develop into heart attacks, strokes and impotence. Emotional problems from excessive stress such as fear, anxiety and depression can worsen physical symptoms making people even more stressed.

Behavioural problems associated with stress can include withdrawal from social situations and indecisiveness. Stress can cause irritability and tearfulness as well as making people aggressive both verbally and physically. Stress can also affect sexual habits and activity.


Stress is diagnosed by a GP who will make a diagnosis if the person displays some of the symptoms above. As there is no specific test to diagnose stress, a GP may take blood and urine tests to rule out other causes of the symptoms.

Symptoms of stress are similar to those of depression so a GP may use an evaluation questionnaire to determine the person's mental state.


  • Stress Management
  • Stress Counselling
  • Anxiety
  • Social Defeat
  • Burnout
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Chronic Stress Disorder
  • Autonomic Nervous System
  • Sympathetic Nervous System
  • Parasympathetc Nervous System
  • Holmes & Rahe Stress Scale
  • Psychological Coping
  • Cortisol
  • General Adaptive Syndrome
  • Eustress
  • Distress
  • Stress Response Trigger
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