Types of Stressors (Eustress vs. Distress)

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  1. Eustress
  2. Distress
  3. Examples of Eustress and Distress
  4. Work and Internal Sources of Distress
  5. What is Eustress and Distress?
  6. What is Positive Stress?
  7. What is Negative Stress?
  8. What is a Stressor? Can it impact Mental Health?

Eustress vs. Distress

 We mentioned it earlier and it bears repeating: stress is not always a bad thing. Stress is simply the body's response to changes that create taxing demands. The previously mentioned Dr. Lazarus (building on Dr. Selye's work) suggested that there is a difference between eustress, which is a term for positive stress, and distress, which refers to negative stress.
Eustress vs. Distress

In daily life, we often use the term "stress" to describe negative experiences or situations. This leads many people to believe that all stress is bad for you, which is not true.


Woman headache

Eustress, or positive stress response, has the following characteristics:

  • Motivates, focuses energy.
  • Is short-term.
  • Is perceived as within our coping abilities.
  • Feels exciting.
  • Improves performance.


Man depressedIn contrast, Distress, or negative stress, has the following characteristics:

  • Causes anxiety or concern.
  • Can be short- or long-term.
  • Is perceived as outside of our coping abilities.
  • Feels unpleasant.
  • Decreases performance.
  • Can lead to mental and physical problems.

Examples of Eustress and Distress

It is somewhat hard to categorize stressors into objective lists of those that cause eustress and those that cause distress, because different people will have different reactions to particular stressful events and situations. However, by generalizing, we can compile a list of stressors that are typically experienced as negative or positive to most people, most of the time. Worried about your mental health? Start with our anxiety test.


Examples of negative personal stressors include:

  • The death of a spouse.
  • Filing for divorce.
  • Losing contact with loved ones.
  • The death of a family member.
  • Hospitalization (oneself or a family member).
  • Injury or illness (oneself or a family member).
  • Being abused or neglected.

  • Separation from a spouse or committed relationship partner.
  • Conflict in interpersonal relationships.
  • Bankruptcy/Money Problems.
  • Unemployment.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Children's problems at school.
  • Legal problems.

Examples of positive personal stressors include:

  • Receiving a promotion or raise at work.
  • Starting a new job.
  • Marriage.
  • Buying a home.
  • Having a child.

  • Moving.
  • Taking a vacation.
  • Holiday seasons.
  • Retiring.
  • Taking educational classes or learning a new hobby.

Work and Internal Sources of Distress

Work and employment concerns such as those listed below are also frequent causes of distress:

  • Excessive job demands.
  • Job insecurity.
  • Conflicts with teammates and supervisors.
  • Inadequate authority necessary to carry out tasks.
  • Lack of training necessary to do the job.
  • Making presentations in front of colleagues or clients.
  • Unproductive and time-consuming meetings.
  • Commuting and travel schedules.

Stressors are not always limited to situations where some external situation is creating a problem. Internal events such as feelings and thoughts and habitual behaviors can also cause negative stress.

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Common internally caused sources of distress include:

  • Fears: (e.g., fears of flying, heights, public speaking, chatting with strangers at a party).
  • Repetitive Thought Patterns.
  • Worrying about future events (e.g., waiting for medical test results or job restructuring).
  • Unrealistic, perfectionist expectations.

Habitual behavior patterns that can lead to distress include:

  • Overscheduling.
  • Failing to be assertive.
  • Procrastination and/or failing to plan ahead.

If you suffer from distress, you may be looking to different therapies for relief. Ketamine assisted therapy is a treatment approach that involves the use of the medication ketamine to help alleviate distress in individuals who may be struggling with mental or physical health problems or conditions such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind how ketamine works to alleviate distress, it has shown promise as a treatment option for individuals experiencing distress who have not found relief through other therapies. Find a ketamine treatment clinic near you to learn more about the benefits of ketamine therapy.

What is Eustress and Distress?

Stress can be both positive and negative, and this is where the difference between eustress and distress comes in. Eustress is a positive form of stress that can actually be helpful in certain situations. It can provide us with energy and motivation to reach our goals and improve our performance, for example, the excitement of starting a new job or going on a first date. On the other hand, distress is a negative form of stress that can be harmful to our health and well-being. This type of stress is caused by situations that feel overwhelming and lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and other negative symptoms. Examples of distress include losing a job or going through a breakup. It's important to recognize the differences between eustress and distress and find ways to manage stressors in order to maintain a healthy balance in life.

What is Positive Stress?

Positive stress, also known as eustress, is a type of stress that can have a beneficial effect on the body and mind. Unlike other negative types of stress, which can cause anxiety and harm to the body, positive stress comes from facing challenges and can have positive effects that help motivate and energize a person. Examples of positive stress include starting a new job or project, working toward a goal, or even exercising. When we face these challenges, our bodies release hormones that help us learn, stay motivated, and become excited about the outcome. Eustress can provide many benefits, including increased productivity, better job performance, and improved overall health.

What is Negative Stress?

Negative stress, also known as distress, is a feeling of being overwhelmed, anxious, or worried due to challenging situations. It can arise when we feel like we don't have control over the things happening in our lives, or when we feel overwhelmed or are facing too much pressure from work, relationships, or other stressors. Negative stress may lead to physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, and heart palpitations, as well as mental health problems like anxiety and depression. It's important to identify the sources of these negative feelings and stress and find ways to cope, such as exercise, talking to friends or an online therapist, and practicing relaxation techniques.

What is a Stressor? Can it impact Mental Health?

A stressor is any event or situation that causes stress. It could be a physical or psychological demand that creates a response in the body, leading to stress. Stressors can be anything from a busy workday to a traumatic event or an ongoing difficult situation in life. People can experience stressors in many different aspects of their lives, and the impact adverse effects of stressors on individuals can vary based on variables such as their coping mechanisms and resources. Understanding stressors and how we respond to them is important for our overall mental health and wellbeing. By recognizing stressors, we can find ways to manage them and reduce their negative effects on our body and mind.

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Additional Resources

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