Stress - Causes | Types | Symptoms | Management | Treatment and Therapies
Possible causes of symptoms in 3 mins
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Written by 
Dr. Sneha Kannan
 and medically  reviewed by Dr. Suresh Kumar G D

Education: MBBS, DCH, MRCPCH, MRCPsych, CCT ( Child & Adolescent Psychiatry)

Professional Bio: Dr.Suresh Kumar is a General Pediatrician and Psychiatrist with more than 19 years of experience in the medical field. He was trained in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at St.Marys, London, and adult ... 

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Published on Feb 05, 2019 and last reviewed on Aug 03, 2023   -  5 min read


Stress is the body’s normal response to any stimuli. It is the feeling of emotional or physical tension. Everybody gets stressed at some point in their life, which is rational and also helpful to perform under pressure.


What Is Stress?

Stress is the body’s normal response to any stimuli. It is the feeling of emotional or physical tension. Everybody gets stressed at some point in their life, which is rational and also helpful to perform under pressure. But, prolonged periods of stress is not good and might have adverse effects on the health. People experience stress from their environment, their body, and their thoughts. Positive life changes also produce stress, which keeps us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger.

Typically, stress should be temporary. Once the body’s normal fight or flight phase, the heartbeat, and breathing should come back to normal, and the muscles should relax. It should only take a short time for the body to return to the natural state.

In this modern fast-paced world, stress is inevitable. Those who are able to manage stress better will be healthier and more successful in their life. Continuous periods of stress with no relief in the middle can result in distress, which can disturb the body’s internal balance or equilibrium. This results in symptoms like headaches, stomach upset, high blood pressure, chest pain, sexual problems, and sleep disturbances. This might also lead to severe mental problems like depression, panic attacks, and other forms of anxiety. Stress is also the leading cause of heart diseases, cancer, lung diseases, accidents, liver cirrhosis, and suicide.

What Causes Stress?

The causes can be divided into external and internal causes.

External Causes:

  • Natural or manmade disaster.
  • Major life changes.
  • Work problems.
  • Financial issues.
  • Family problems.
  • Relationship issues.
  • Work overload.
  • Being a victim of some crime.
  • Life-threatening accident or illness survivor.
  • Unhappy marriage.

Internal Causes:

  • A tendency to believe the worst.
  • Rigid and inflexible thinking.
  • Unrealistic expectations.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Negativity.

What Are the Types of Stress?

There are three types of stress:

  • Acute Stress - Stress that lasts for a short-term. This type of stress helps you manage dangerous situations and keeps you alert.

  • Episodic Acute Stress - Frequent episodes of acute stress.

  • Chronic Stress - Stress that lasts for a more extended period. If you do not manage such stress, it might cause health problems.

What Is Fight-Or-Flight Response?

It is also called acute stress response. During acute stress, there is a sudden release of hormones, which activates the body’s sympathetic nervous system. The adrenal glands are in turn stimulated by the sympathetic nervous system, and they release adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in rapid breathing, flushed skin, dilated pupil, and trembling. This prepares your body to either flee or flight the situation. So the stress created in such a life-threatening situation is crucial for survival.

What Are the Symptoms and Effects of Stress?

Too much stress can cause cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms.

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Problems with memory.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Bad judgment.
  • Anxious thoughts.
  • Worrying all the time.

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Irritability.
  • Constant anger.
  • Mood changes.
  • Feeling lonely.

Physical Symptoms:

  • Chronic pain.
  • Fatigue.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart diseases.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Nausea.
  • Stress ulcer.
  • Dizziness.
  • Low libido.

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Eating too much or too little.
  • Too much or too little sleeping.
  • Being isolated.
  • Neglecting one’s responsibilities.

How Much Stress Is Too Much?

Different people handle stress differently. Some people seem to be doing well in spite of all the challenges life throws at them, while a few people fall apart in the face of small obstacles. Every individual handles stress differently, so no fixed level of stress can be said too much for an individual. Some factors influence the tolerance level of stress, which are:

  • Strong support from family and friends.

  • Self-confidence.

  • Optimistic and hopeful outlook on life.

  • Control over your emotions.

  • Being prepared mentally for any stressful situation.

How to Manage Stress?

It is not possible to get rid of stress completely, as said earlier, it can be useful in some situation. To manage stress, firstly, you have to identify the cause of your stress. Find out what triggers cause your stress, and try to avoid or eliminate them. If they cannot be avoided, then think of ways to overcome these triggers.

Here are a few tips to help you manage stress and lead a better life:

  • Be positive and know that everything has a solution.
  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Sleep for 7 to 8 hours daily.
  • Instead of getting angry and defensive, be assertive.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.
  • Reduce the consumption of caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
  • Perform relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation.
  • Accept the fact that there are a few things that you cannot control.
  • Spend quality time with your friends, relatives, and family members. Strong relationships have a protective effect against stress.
  • Take out time for your hobbies and interests. Avoid spending too much time watching TV, computers, and develop more outdoor activities.

How Can a Psychiatrist Help Relieve Stress?

If you are unable to cope with stress even after trying stress management tips, it is best you consult a psychiatrist. Depending on the severity of symptoms and cause, the psychiatrist might suggest the following treatments:

  • Psychotherapy - It is also called talk therapy. It helps to understand your thought process and triggers by talking to a psychiatrist. Some types of psychotherapy are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IP), dialectical behavior therapy, supportive therapy, and psychoanalysis.
  • Medications - The psychiatrist might prescribe sleeping pills or antidepressants or antianxiety medications if needed.


As there is no way to prevent traumatic situations, there are no preventive measures for stress. But by eating healthy, meditating, and regular physical exercise, you will be able to handle stress better. Always get medical attention if you feel that stress and anxiety have started to affect your health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are Psychological and Emotional Signs of Stress?

Stress presents with different signs and symptoms in different people. It might not be the same for all individuals. But the listed are some of the common symptoms that the affected individuals present as signs of stress.
- Depression.
- Anxiety.
- Anger.
- Irritability.
- Restlessness.
- Feeling unmotivated.
- Sad.
- Feeling doomed.


How Does Stress Affect Your Health?

Stress is not only a psychological problem, but the effects of stress can be significantly noted in physical health also. The physical health effects of stress can be seen as a rise in blood pressure which is known as hypertension, increase in body unhealthy cholesterol levels that are known as obesity, increase in blood sugar levels that are known as diabetes mellitus, and it can lead to other heart and vascular diseases also.


What Organs Are Affected by Stress?

Almost all organs get affected by stress, but the most affected ones are the cardiovascular system, the endocrine system and its hormones, gastrointestinal system, the nervous system, and both male and female reproductive system.


What Can Stress Do to a Woman's Body?

The common symptoms of stress to a woman are headache, fatigue, insomnia, pain, overeating, skin disorders, irregular menstrual cycle, and upset stomach.


What Age Is the Most Stressful?

The age of 23 -30 can be the most stressful age group in human beings.Because that age involves the most life responsibility tasks, like finding a job to lead a life the person dreamt of, finding a life partner and setting a lifestyle, etc. It involves so many ups and downs, challenges, and twists, so this age group is the most stressed age group in human beings.


Which People Are Most Stressed?

Considering the whole population, the people belonging to America are the most stressed group of people in the world. Also, today people who have low socioeconomic status, the ill, and people who are working in computer and technology fields involving more target achieving stress problems are found to be the people who are more stressed.


Can Stress Make Your Body Hurt?

Whenever the human body undergoes stress the muscular system contracts in required regions to prevent the body from getting injured, later it relaxes, but the forced contraction of the muscles might lead to headaches, muscle aches, back pain, and shoulder pain.


How Can a Woman Relieve Stress?

Relieving stress is important to proceed with healthy living, and it is adequate to maintain and balance the responsibilities, especially when it comes to a woman. Women can relieve stress by having adequate sleep, rest, nutritious food, self-care options, having a positive attitude towards life and challenges, yoga, and meditation.


What Age Is the Most Fun?

Childhood can be the most fun-filled part of human life for almost most people. Because, the responsibilities we carry during childhood is quite less. There are always parents and caretakers to pamper and protect them. The fear of life is also quite less during childhood.


What Are The Most Stressful Things in Life?

To different people, different situations might be the reason for stress. Also, different individuals perceive stress in their unique ways. The common stressful events might be losing a loved one, illness, failure, death, chronic illness like HIV, discrimination, and rejection, etc.


How Can I Tell If I am Stressed?

With low social awareness about the symptoms and the importance of stress, many people lack to value the treatment of stress. However, with proper awareness and patient education, people with stress can identify the symptoms of stress in them like headaches, chest pain, or rapid heartbeat that is called palpitations, and profuse sweating may tell that the person is stressed.


What Does Stress Rash Look Like?

Stress can cause a rash. The rash can occur in any part of the body but mostly present in the face, neck chest, and arms. The appearance of stress rash looks like red bumps that are named as hives. The rash might present with symptoms like itchiness, pain, and irritability.


What Are the Five Stress Management Techniques?

The following are the five most important practical techniques any person dealing with stress can practice easily and is proven to have positive management in dealing with stress.
- A long walk for an hour or so in the morning or evening.
- Practicing mindfulness.
- Exercise.
- Writing or journaling feelings.
- Organizing self and learning to organize their own actions even in the smallest activities a person does.


What Is the Fastest Way to Heal a Stress Fracture?

Proper nutrition and rest is the best way to heal any fracture. Proper medical advice from the physician, proper medications, and regular follow up is important. Other than these, proper nutrition, quitting smoking and alcoholism, get moderate exercise being cautious of not further damaging the fracture site.


How Long Can Stress Delay Your Period?

Stress is known to delay the periods in women. Stress can delay the period up to six weeks, and until that period, we can wait and watch if the period does not return even after six weeks. It is good if the woman gets a check-up with her doctor. The five stress management strategies can also be practiced meanwhile to reduce the stress that will also help adequately in the missed period.


Which of the Following Symptoms Is Considered a Physical Effect of Stress?

The physical effect of stress presents with the following symptoms, some symptoms do not warrant medical care, and it can resolve on itself, but few symptoms are considered as an emergency.
- Headache.
- Fatigue.
- Palpitations.
- Loose bowel movements.
- Urgency or incontinence in urination.
- Cyanosis.
- Cold sensation in the body.
- Chest pain.
- Breathlessness.


What Do I Wear for a Stress Test?

The costume guidelines for a stress test are usually normal clothing and shoes that a person might choose while a walk, run, or exercise, but tight and wire made undergarments are not allowed. The person might use the following.
- Running or walking shoes.
- Shorts.
- Light pants.
- Trousers.
- Slacks.


What Is the Difference Between Stress and Tension?

Stress is more related to a symptom of fear and anxiety to any particular experience or life challenge. But, tension refers to a mental strain or generally a strained state of mind. If you are suffering from any of those, get help from our online platform.


How Does Stress Affect the Immune System?

The immune system can be greatly affected by stress. Due to stress, the number of healthy immune cells is found to decrease. It limits the ability of the body to fight infections. Mainly the cells called lymphocytes are known to get severely reduced in number.


What Is a Cardiac Stress Test?

The cardiac stress test is used to detect the ability of the heart to work under stress. It is usually done under a controlled clinical environment. The stress is induced by making the person running on a treadmill, or it can also be induced with the help of medicines. An ECG machine is connected to the patient to record the findings.


Why Does Stress Cause Acne?

A stressful condition that stands over a prolonged duration in a person is known to increase the stress hormones. This stress hormone is cortisol. This hormone makes the sebaceous glands of the body to overwork, which leads to the formation of Acne.


Which Is an Effect of Short-Term Exposure to Stress?

An increase in cortisol and reduction in all normal, not so important physiological functions like digestion and heart relaxation are some immediate lowered parasympathetic effects noticed in a short term exposure of stress.


How Stressed Are People Today?

The world has become very competitive day by day. The expectations and responsibilities put on every individual are rising due to the growth and development of the world. These factors are leading to increased levels of stress in human beings today. However, awareness of stress management is also increasing in the world.

Last reviewed at:
03 Aug 2023  -  5 min read

Dr. Suresh Kumar G D

Dr. Suresh Kumar G D



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