Types of Stress and Their Symptoms

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Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim ...Read More

Given that stress has been linked as a co-factor in...

Given that stress has been linked as a co-factor in 95% or all disease processes, a keystone of holistic, alternative health and healing is learning how to effectively manage and reduce stress. Stress management is a learning process begins with recognizing or identifying four specific types of stress affecting you and how these stressors (that is, what demands a change from you) are showing up or manifesting as symptoms in your life.

Stress factors broadly fall into four types or categories: physical stress, psychological stress, psychosocial stress, and psycho-spiritual stress.


Physical stress

This can include trauma (injury, infection, surgery), intense physical labor/over-exertion, environmental pollution (pesticides, herbicides, toxins, heavy metals, inadequate light, radiation, noise, electromagnetic fields), illness (viral, bacterial, or fungal agents), fatigue, inadequate oxygen supply, hypoglycemia I (low blood sugar), hormonal and/or biochemical imbalances, dietary stress (nutritional deficiencies, food allergies and sensitivities, unhealthy eating habits), dehydration, substance abuse, dental challenges, and musculoskeletal misalignments/imbalances.

Psychological stress

This may include emotional stress (resentments, fears, frustration, sadness, anger, grief/bereavement), cognitive stress (information overload, accelerated sense of time, worry, guilt, shame, jealousy, resistance, attachments, self-criticism, self-loathing, unworkable perfectionism, anxiety, panic attacks, not feeling like yourself, not feeling like things are real, and a sense of being out of control/not being in control), and perceptual stress (beliefs, roles, stories, attitudes, world view).

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Psychosocial stress

This may include relationship/marriage difficulties (partner, siblings, children, family, employer, co-workers, employer), lack of social support, lack of resources for adequate survival, loss of employment/investments/savings, loss of loved ones, bankruptcy, home foreclosure, and isolation.

Psycho-spiritual stress

A crisis of values, meaning, and purpose; joyless striving (instead of productive, satisfying, meaningful and fulfilling work; and a misalignment within one’s core spiritual beliefs.

Overall, improperly or ineffectively managed stress usually takes a toll on the body. When stress-related feelings, moods, emotions are pushed into the body, the soma, this is usually termed psychosomatic or psychogenic illness, including headaches, heart palpitations, physical/cognitive/emotional pain and suffering, constricted throat and shallow, constricted breathing, clammy palms, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, allergies, asthma, autoimmune syndromes related to acute stress due to an ineffective functioning of the immune system, hypertension (high blood pressure), and gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea, upset stomach, duodenal ulcers and esophageal reflux syndrome.

Prolonged chronic stress and acute stress can result in suppressed immune function, increased susceptibility to infectious and immune-related diseases and cancer. Emotional and prolonged stress can also result in hormonal imbalances (adrenal, pituitary, thyroid, etcetera) that further interfere with healthy immune functioning.

(Adapted from Larry Trivieri, Jr, The Health Plus Letter, Vol. 2, No. 2, www.1healthyworld.com)

a man that is stressed suffering from mental health problems

How stress impacts physical and mental health

Stress can have significant impacts on both physical and mental health. Physically, it can lead to headaches, muscle tension, digestive problems, and weakened immune system. Mentally, it can cause anxiety, depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances. Long-term stress increases the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and mental health disorders. Proper stress management is crucial for overall well-being.

Cognitive symptoms of stress

Anxious thoughts, fearful anticipation, poor concentration, difficulty with memory.

Emotional stress

Feelings of tension, stress eating, irritability, restlessness, worries, inability to relax, depression.

Behavioral symptoms of stress

Avoidance of tasks; poor sleep; problems; difficulty in completing work assignments; fidgeting; tremors; strained face; clenching fists; crying; changes in drinking, eating, or smoking behaviors.

Physiological symptoms of stress

Stiff or tense muscles, grinding teeth, sweating, tension headaches, faint feelings, choking feeling, difficulty in swallowing, stomachache, nausea, vomiting, loosening of bowels, constipation, frequency and urgency of urination, loss of interest in sex, tiredness, shakiness or tremors, weight loss or weight gain, awareness of heart beat and rapid heartbeat.

Social symptoms of stress

Some people in stressful times tend to seek out others to be with. Other people withdraw under frequent high stress situations. Also, the quality of relationships can change when a person is under constant stress.

Ketamine therapy is a relatively new treatment option for stress and anxiety that has shown promising results in clinical studies. It is administered intravenously, often in a series of low-dose infusions over the course of several weeks or months. Ketamine works by modulating the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly glutamate, which is involved in the regulation of mood and behavior. It is also important to have a thorough evaluation by a qualified healthcare provider before starting ketamine therapy to ensure that it is appropriate for your specific situation. Interested in learning more about ketamines for anxiety? Find a ketamine therapy clinic near you.

What are the types of stress?

There are different types of stress that can affect our bodies and health. One type of stress is acute stress, which is a stress response due to a sudden change or perceived threat. This can lead to symptoms like increased heart rate, feeling irritable, and anxiety. Another type is chronic stress, which is caused by ongoing stressors like work or family situations. This can lead to symptoms like depression, fatigue, and physical health issues.

It’s important to learn how to manage stress and find helpful information and resources. Taking time for yourself and doing things that make you feel good can give stress relief and be helpful in reducing stress levels. Talking to people in your life can also be helpful in finding support and learning new ways to cope with stress.

What is physical stress?

Physical stress is a type of stress that affects the body. It occurs when a person experiences stress for an extended period of time, which can lead to changes in the body. Some symptoms of physical stress include muscle tension, headaches, and fatigue.

Physical stress may also result in other health problems, such as increased blood pressure, decreased immune function, and an increased risk of alcohol and substance abuse.

There are ways to treat and manage physical stress, such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and finding healthy ways to cope with stress. It’s important to pay attention to the symptoms of physical stress and seek treatment if necessary, as it can have long-term effects on a person’s health.

What is psychological stress?

Psychological stress is a type of stress that affects a person’s mental and emotional well-being. It can be caused by many different types of events or situations, such as work-related stressors or the death of a loved one. When a person experiences psychological stress, it may lead to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and difficulty coping with ongoing stress in everyday life.

Studies have shown that psychological stress may also increase the risk of certain serious health problems too, such as heart disease and mental health disorders. However, there are resources and support available to help people cope with psychological stress and take control of their physical and mental health. It’s important to seek help if you are experiencing symptoms of psychological stress, as early intervention can lead to better outcomes.

What is cognitive stress?

Cognitive stress is the type of stress that comes from the way we think and process information. It can be caused by a variety of things, such as work, relationships, or life changes. This type of stress may affect our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. When we are under cognitive stress, we may feel overwhelmed or out of control, and we may struggle to focus or make decisions. Common symptoms of cognitive stress can include depression, anxiety, and irritability. It is important to find ways to cope with cognitive stress, such as practicing mindfulness or talking to a trusted friend or therapist. By taking control of our thoughts and finding healthy ways to manage stress, we can improve our overall mental and physical health, and well-being.

Acute stress vs chronic stress

Acute stress is short-term and occurs in response to immediate threats. Chronic stress is long-term, persists over time, and often stems from ongoing situations or lifestyle factors.

(Compiled by University of Miami psychologist Michael Antoni and colleagues, in Kenneth R. Pelletier, Ph.D. Between Mind and Body: Stress, Emotions, and Health in MindBody Medicine, Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. and Joel Gurin, Eds., Consumer Reports Books, Consumer Union: Yonkers, New York, 1993, 19-38, citation: 24).


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