How is stress caused

Stress and your health: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

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Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous.

Stress is your body's reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. But when stress lasts for a long time, it may harm your health.

Stress is a normal feeling. There are two main types of stress:

  • Acute stress. This is short-term stress that goes away quickly. You feel it when you slam on the brakes, have a fight with your partner, or ski down a steep slope. It helps you manage dangerous situations. It also occurs when you do something new or exciting. All people have acute stress at one time or another.
  • Chronic stress. This is stress that lasts for a longer period of time. You may have chronic stress if you have money problems, an unhappy marriage, or trouble at work. Any type of stress that goes on for weeks or months is chronic stress. You can become so used to chronic stress that you don't realize it is a problem. If you don't find ways to manage stress, it may lead to health problems.


Your body reacts to stress by releasing hormones. These hormones make your brain more alert, cause your muscles to tense, and increase your pulse. In the short term, these reactions are good because they can help you handle the situation causing stress. This is your body's way of protecting itself.

When you have chronic stress, your body stays alert, even though there is no danger. Over time, this puts you at risk for health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Skin problems, such as acne or eczema
  • Menstrual problems

If you already have a health condition, chronic stress can make it worse.


Stress can cause many types of physical and emotional symptoms. Sometimes, you may not realize these symptoms are caused by stress. Here are some signs that stress may be affecting you:

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Forgetfulness
  • Frequent aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Lack of energy or focus
  • Sexual problems
  • Stiff jaw or neck
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Upset stomach
  • Use of alcohol or drugs to relax
  • Weight loss or gain

The causes of stress are different for each person. You can have stress from good challenges as well as bad ones. Some common sources of stress include:

  • Getting married or divorced
  • Starting a new job
  • The death of a spouse or close family member
  • Getting laid off
  • Retiring
  • Having a baby
  • Money problems
  • Moving
  • Having a serious illness
  • Problems at work
  • Problems at home

Call your health care provider if you feel overwhelmed by stress, or if it is affecting your health. Also call your provider if you notice new or unusual symptoms.

Reasons you may want to seek help are:

  • You have feelings of panic, such as dizziness, rapid breathing, or a racing heartbeat.
  • You are unable to work or function at home or at your job.
  • You have fears that you cannot control.
  • You are having memories of a traumatic event.

Your provider may refer you to a mental health care provider. You can talk to this professional about your feelings, what seems to make your stress better or worse, and why you think you are having this problem. You may also work on developing ways to reduce stress in your life.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text 988 or chat You can also call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7, anytime day or night.

You can also call 911 or the local emergency number or go to the hospital emergency room. DO NOT delay.

If someone you know has attempted suicide, call 911 or the local emergency number right away. DO NOT leave the person alone, even after you have called for help.

Anxiety; Feeling uptight; Stress; Tension; Jitters; Apprehension

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Stress and anxiety

Ahmed SM, Hershberger PJ, Lemkau JP. Psychosocial influences on health. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 3.

National Institute of Mental Health website. I'm so stressed out! fact sheet. Accessed August 17, 2022.

Freedland KE, Carney RM, Lenze EJ, Rich MW. Psychiatric and psychosocial aspects of cardiovascular disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Bhatt DL, Solomon SD, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 99.

Updated by: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

Common Causes of Stress & Their Effect on Your Health

Written by Stephanie Watson

In this Article

  • Causes of Stress
  • Effects of Stress on Your Health

The kids won't stop screaming, your boss has been hounding you because you turned a report in late, and you owe the IRS thousands of dollars you don't have. You're seriously stressed out.

Stress is actually a normal part of life. At times, it serves a useful purpose. Stress can motivate you to get that promotion at work, or run the last mile of a marathon. But if you don't get a handle on your stress and it becomes long-term, it can seriously interfere with your job, family life, and health. More than half of Americans say they fight with friends and loved ones because of stress, and more than 70% say they experience real physical and emotional symptoms from it.

Read on to learn why you get stressed out, and how that stress might be affecting your health.

Causes of Stress

Everyone has different stress triggers. Work stress tops the list, according to surveys. Forty percent of U.S. workers admit to experiencing office stress, and one-quarter say work is the biggest source of stress in their lives.

Causes of work stress include:

  • Being unhappy in your job
  • Having a heavy workload or too much responsibility
  • Working long hours
  • Having poor management, unclear expectations of your work, or no say in the decision-making process
  • Working under dangerous conditions
  • Being insecure about your chance for advancement or risk of termination
  • Having to give speeches in front of colleagues
  • Facing discrimination or harassment at work, especially if your company isn't supportive

Life stresses can also have a big impact. Examples of life stresses are:

  • The death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Loss of a job
  • Increase in financial obligations
  • Getting married
  • Moving to a new home
  • Chronic illness or injury
  • Emotional problems (depression, anxiety, anger, grief, guilt, low self-esteem)
  • Taking care of an elderly or sick family member
  • Traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, theft, rape, or violence against you or a loved one

Sometimes the stress comes from inside, rather than outside. You can stress yourself out just by worrying about things. All of these factors can lead to stress:

  • Fear and uncertainty. When you regularly hear about the threat of terrorist attacks, global warming, and toxic chemicals on the news, it can cause you to feel stressed, especially because you feel like you have no control over those events. And even though disasters are typically very rare events, their vivid coverage in the media may make them seem as if they are more likely to occur than they really are. Fears can also hit closer to home, such as being worried that you won't finish a project at work or won't have enough money to pay your bills this month.
  • Attitudes and perceptions. How you view the world or a particular situation can determine whether it causes stress. For example, if your television set is stolen and you take the attitude, "It's OK, my insurance company will pay for a new one," you'll be far less stressed than if you think, "My TV is gone and I'll never get it back! What if the thieves come back to my house to steal again?" Similarly, people who feel like they're doing a good job at work will be less stressed out by a big upcoming project than those who worry that they are incompetent.
  • Unrealistic expectations. No one is perfect. If you expect to do everything right all the time, you're destined to feel stressed when things don't go as expected.
  • Change. Any major life change can be stressful -- even a happy event like a wedding or a job promotion. More unpleasant events, such as a divorce, major financial setback, or death in the family can be significant sources of stress.

Your stress level will differ based on your personality and how you respond to situations. Some people let everything roll off their back. To them, work stresses and life stresses are just minor bumps in the road. Others literally worry themselves sick.

Effects of Stress on Your Health

When you are in a stressful situation, your body launches a physical response. Your nervous system springs into action, releasing hormones that prepare you to either fight or take off. It's called the "fight or flight" response, and it's why, when you're in a stressful situation, you may notice that your heartbeat speeds up, your breathing gets faster, your muscles tense, and you start to sweat. This kind of stress is short-term and temporary (acute stress), and your body usually recovers quickly from it.

But if your stress system stays activated over a long period of time (chronic stress), it can lead to or aggravate more serious health problems. The constant rush of stress hormones can put a lot of wear and tear on your body, causing it to age more quickly and making it more prone to illness.

If you've been stressed out for a short period of time, you may start to notice some of these physical signs:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Upset stomach
  • Irritability

When stress becomes long-term and is not properly addressed, it can lead to a number of more serious health conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Heartburn, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Upset stomach -- cramps, constipation, and diarrhea
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Fertility problems
  • Flare-ups of asthma or arthritis
  • Skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis

Managing your stress can make a real difference to your health. One study showed that women with heart disease lived longer if they underwent a stress management program.

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Stress is a state of psychological and physical tension in response to external influences. It can be caused by difficult situations, monotonous activities and emotional factors. Stress helps you adapt to a changing environment, but can have negative health consequences. nine0005

Is stress good or not?

Short-term one-time stress has a positive effect. In response to a stimulus, the body produces three hormones: cortisone, adrenaline, noradrenaline and activates the cells of the immune system.

Thanks to this, a person for a short time period:

  • memory improves;

  • nine0004 increases the level of immunity;

  • the rate of tissue regeneration increases;

  • intellectual abilities are activated;

  • increases the endurance of the nervous system;

  • the functioning of the sense organs improves.

If a person is systematically exposed to a stress factor, all his organs and systems work hard. As a result, the body intensively wastes energy, passing through the three stages of the process.

The first stage takes effect at the moment of exposure to the stress factor, and lasts a few minutes. It is followed by a second one lasting from several hours to several days, during which a person is looking for a solution to the problem or a safe way out of the situation. nine0005

If the action of the factor continues, the body depletes the adaptive capacity and ceases to minimize the harmful effects of the stressor. It is at the stage of distress that a person experiences overload, psychological disorders, signs of somatic diseases.

Causes of stress

Allocate systemic and mental type of impact of a stress factor. The systemic type is the body's response to an infectious disease, inflammation, injury, light, high or low temperature. Mental type - manifests itself on the emotional and mental sphere, followed by the biological level. nine0005

Mental causes of stress include:

  • professional activities associated with increased responsibility;

  • complex relationships in the family;

  • conflicts, phobias, problems in communication, threats of a different nature, intractable problems, dysfunctional social relations in the team; nine0005

  • unfulfilled needs, low self-esteem, perfectionism;

  • change of place of residence or work, monotonous activity, divorce, death of a loved one;

  • information overload;

  • lack of rest sufficient to restore the psyche; nine0005

  • psycho-emotional tension caused by risk, time pressure, increased workload, novelty of the situation or its uncertainty.

The consequences of prolonged stress in men and women are the same - depression and somatic diseases. Therefore, it is important to timely note the signs of psychophysical stress, identify its causes and eliminate it.

Signs of stress

Prolonged exposure to a stress factor causes serious stress throughout the body, significantly worsening the general mood and well-being of a person.

Common symptoms of developing stress:

  • Muscle tension in the head, neck, shoulders, back.

  • Increased anxiety.

  • nine0003

    Irritability at the slightest provocation.

  • Reduced performance.

  • Depression, apathy.

  • Sleep disorders.

  • Absent-mindedness, deterioration of memory and ability to concentrate, slowing down the pace of thought processes. nine0005

  • Chronic fatigue, pessimism, desire to distance themselves from society.

  • Headache, unexplained chest pain.

  • Disorder of appetite, violation of the digestive function.

Often a person acquires an obsessive habit, for example, biting his lips, turning his neck, straightening his hair. He begins to be disturbed by pain in the abdomen, palpitations, itching, or other negative manifestations. nine0005

Therapy for stress

The belief that stress does not require treatment is a dangerous delusion. A chronic state of tension can lead to depression, post-traumatic syndrome, neurosis, neurodermatitis, peptic ulcers of the gastrointestinal tract, and bronchial asthma.

If you are worried about emotional discomfort, the severity of symptoms increases, moreover, there are somatic reactions, make an appointment with a psychotherapist. The doctor will determine the stage of stress, help to find unconscious stress factors, select a method of successful treatment that will protect against serious complications. nine0005

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Stress - causes, sources, removal, prevention

Causes and sources of stress development

How to relieve stress

Stress prevention

Any resident of such a large metropolis as Moscow is subject to stress in one way or another. Every day we are all faced with situations that are beyond our control. We are talking about the usual facts of our daily life in a big city - the way to work and back by public transport or a private car, where traffic jams await us, a large crowd of people on the streets and in shopping centers, where we go shopping on a weekday or weekend, and many other things that are absolutely out of our control. nine0005

In addition, bad ecology, unstable temperature conditions of the city, our personal unstable emotional background, sedentary work in the office at the computer, the inability to devote more time to the family and be alone with ourselves and nature - all this, to one degree or another, at least once affected each of us. .

Before talking about how not to be trapped by stress and methods of confronting this enemy, it is most advisable to give a precise definition of the concept of "stress" and identify its main types. As you know, stress is a state of emotional and physical tension of a person that occurs in certain extremely difficult situations that we cannot influence. Getting into such a situation, a person experiences irritation, indignation, tension, pressure or depression. nine0005

Causes and sources of stress development

All stressful situations can be conditionally divided into several groups:

The first of these are situations on which we a priori cannot exert any qualitative influence. This is a changeable state of weather conditions, an unfavorable ecological situation, a volatile economic situation in the country, an increase in prices for goods, services, travel, the level of crime in our region, a long search for work, late payment of wages, the actions of other people in relation to us, their opinion about us. nine0005

In this case, as you know, it is not advisable to worry and get irritated, since we will not be able to change the circumstances with our indignation. On the contrary, it is worth trying to abstract, distract and take the current situation for granted, directing the course of your thoughts in a different, more positive and productive direction. Various meditation methods, positive visualization techniques, breathing practices, etc. will be excellent helpers in this. Thus, you can avoid a stressful situation that leads to high blood pressure, nervousness and a spoiled mood. nine0075

Secondly, it is worth noting such stressors that we not only can, but should influence. Here we are talking about our ability to set feasible life goals for ourselves, the ability to manage our time and set priorities correctly, the ability to own our desires and actions, giving them a sober assessment. We will be quite able to avoid a lot of stressful situations if mentally we do not create unnecessary difficulties and imaginary worries for ourselves. So, if you worry about events that happened in the past or are coming in the future, you can be 100% sure that this will not change the situation in any way. One way or another, a far-fetched stress factor always leads to a sad result, so it’s worth distracting yourself from bad thoughts and negative forecasting at such moments, and think effectively, for the benefit of business. nine0075

    It is impossible not to mention such sources of stress, which are formed under the influence of your personal rhythm of life and features of the worldview. Agree, many of us dream of an interesting job with a high salary at the same time as a desire to be successful with members of the opposite sex (or to be the first not only on the career ladder, but also in authority in the family), to have a beautiful large apartment, an expensive high-status car, a country cottage and etc. nine0005

    Undoubtedly, some of the listed desires are quite objective and reasonable, but the implementation of the entire list will require not a single year of hard and painstaking work, good luck, professional acumen, which is not available to everyone.

    Therefore, we sincerely advise you, when determining your main life goals for the near future or long-term, to carefully consider the choice and leave the really important for you and your loved ones from all the variety of dreams. nine0005

    In case of difficulty, you can resort to meditation practices, try to relax, distract from the outside world and focus on the inner desires that your true “I” speaks about.

    There are also a number of situations that cause stress, the main source of which is the person himself, his consciousness and subconscious. Such stress factors are called mental. People who are unsure of themselves usually fall into such conditions. Doubting their capabilities and abilities, not believing in the successful outcome of the business they have begun, not believing in themselves in principle, such people experience very strong emotional stress. How to avoid it? The best way to help with this is a professional technique for overcoming stress factors, useful literature on psychology, relaxation lessons, various auto-trainings. nine0075

      How to relieve stress

      It's no secret that many herbs have a calming effect. Under stress, it will be useful to use various herbal tinctures and teas. Melissa has long been considered one of the most common herbs that calm the human nervous system. In addition, lemon balm improves human digestion.

      The well-known "Valerian Infusion" or "Motherwort" will also have a relaxing effect on the body as a whole. The essential oils found in hop cones have calming properties that can also help with stress. In case of sleep disturbance, mild nervousness, anxiety and panic, lavender extract will be an excellent helper. nine0005

      Each of us is well aware that stress in any form, whether it is short or long, negatively affects the overall well-being of a person and his health. It should be understood that preventing stress is very important, as well as preventing the possibility of its penetration into your life as a whole.

      Stress prevention

      We cannot always control the situation, but we can qualitatively change our personal attitude towards it. By enrolling in courses of yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, choosing your favorite sport or art for practicing, you will learn to look differently at many things in our life. Having immersed yourself in an interesting project, exciting leisure that makes you forget about everything about the course of physical activity, you will gradually develop a kind of immunity to stressful situations, increase the level of self-confidence and your strengths, and you can become a calmer and more cheerful person. nine0005

      Try to get rid of stress and its consequences as quickly as possible. When faced with a problematic situation, try to solve it quickly and effectively, immediately restoring peace of mind.

      In our society, replete with technological progress, free media, which gives us a huge flow of information, often negative, it is important to understand what stress is and how to deal with it.

      In the modern metropolis in which we live, we move every day, we encounter a mass of people, situations, phenomena, it is simply necessary to be able to influence negative factors and influence our personal reaction to what is happening. One way or another, a lot depends solely on us: our personal response to what is happening, the next steps and the resulting emotional state. nine0005

      There are no hopeless situations. It is very important to see not only the dark sides of life, but also to find something good and kind among cloudy or unsuccessful days, which allows us to sincerely rejoice and love life!

      The author of the article:

      Ivanova Natalya Vladimirovna


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