Types of stress and their triggers
Currently, stress is considered to be the mental fatigue caused by performance and demands that are greater than we can bear .
It usually causes various pathologies, both physical and psychic. From Psychology and Mind we want to address the different types of stress and the causal agents that provoke them.
Types of stress, their characteristics and effects
Stress is a reaction that can cause serious health problems . Various chronic conditions, psychosomatic and mental health disorders (heart problems, anxiety, depression, etc.) have been shown to be closely related to stress. Although the term stress seems very modern, the etymological origin of the word is very old.
History of the concept
In the Middle Ages, it was already used to describe an endless number of negative experiences. But it was in the 18th century that the concept spread among engineers and physicists with the aim of describing certain characteristics of solid bodies. This characteristic refers to the internal force present in a specific area on which an external force acts that can alter that solid state, a definition that a priori has nothing to do with the current concept of stress.
In the 1920s, the renowned Dr. Hans Seyle introduced the term into the health sciences to refer to a global response of our body to a situation that causes us distress.
But stress does not always have to be harmful, because there is positive stress that helps us to face a task with all our strength (an adaptive stress, very present in animals including human beings). However, when this emotion exhausts us, apart from having notable psychic and physical consequences, it does not help us to face this stressful task .
The stages of stress
In 1956, Seyle theorized that the stress response consists of three distinct phases :
1. Reaction alarm : Starts right after the threat is detected. In this phase some symptoms appear such as low body temperature or an increase in the heart rate.
2. Resistance : The organism adapts to the situation but continues the activation although to a lesser extent than the previous stage. If the stressful situation is maintained over time, the activation ends up succumbing because resources are consumed at a greater rate than they are generated.
3. Exhaustion : The body ends up exhausting resources and gradually loses the adaptive capacity of the previous phase.
Types of Stress
Different types of stress are classified based on certain criteria . We will explain the types of stress according to their usefulness, their maintenance and duration.
1. Types of stress based on their sign
1.1. Positive stress
Contrary to what people think, stress does not always hurt the person who is under it. This type of stress arises when the person is under pressure, but unconsciously interprets the effects of the situation as giving him or her some benefit.
This stress makes the affected person motivated and much more energetic , a good example would be a sports competition where the participants must have a point of vitality to be able to be victorious. This stress is associated with positive emotions, such as happiness.
1.2. Distress or negative stress
When we suffer from distress we anticipate a negative situation believing that something will go wrong , which generates an anxiety that paralyzes us completely.
Negative stress unbalances us and neutralizes the resources that we would have at our disposal in normal situations, which ends up generating sadness, anger, etc.
2. Types of stress based on their duration
2.1. Acute stress
It is the stress that most people experience and is the cause of the demands that we make on ourselves or others . These demands are fed with respect to a recent past, or in anticipation of a near future. In small doses it can be positive but in higher doses it can end up exhausting us, with severe consequences on our mental and physical health.
Luckily this type of stress does not last long so it leaves no after-effects, apart from being easy to cure. The main signs of acute stress are:
1. Muscle aches : Headaches, backaches and contractures among other conditions usually appear.
2. Negative emotions : Depression, anxiety, fear, frustration, etc.
3. Gastric problems : Stress can cause a wide range of stomach symptoms; constipation, heartburn, diarrhea, abdominal pain, etc.
4. Overexcitation of the nervous system : causes symptoms such as increased blood pressure, tachycardia, palpitations, nausea, excessive sweating and migraine attacks.
2.2. Acute episodic stress
It is also one of the most commonly treated types of stress in psychological consultations. It appears in people with unrealistic demands, both their own and those of society .
They are people who are irritated and belligerent, apart from having permanent anguish because they cannot control all the variables that are demanded of them. Another symptom of people who suffer acute episodic stress is that they are always worried about the future. Because they are hostile, they are difficult to treat unless they go to a specialist and receive treatment.
2.3. Chronic stress
It is the stress that appears in prisons, wars or in situations of extreme poverty, situations in which one must be continually on the alert. This kind of stress can also come from a trauma experienced in childhood. A n causing great despair, it can modify the beliefs and scale of values of the individual who suffers it .
This is undoubtedly the most serious type of stress, with severe destructive results for the psychological health of the person who suffers it. People who suffer from it on a daily basis present a mental and physical wear and tear that can leave sequels throughout their lives . The person cannot change the stressful situation, but neither can they run away, they simply cannot do anything about it.
The person who has this kind of stress is often not aware of it, as he has been in such suffering for so long that he has become accustomed to it. They may even like it because it is the only thing they have known and do not know or cannot cope with the situation otherwise, because of this it is normal that they reject the possibility of treatment because they feel so identified with the stress that they believe it is already part of them.
- H and studies showing the relationship between stress and diseases of the digestive system, cancer, skin diseases and heart problems.
- With stress often comes insecurity and the feeling of helplessness (they always throw in the towel because they believe, or really can’t, do anything).
- Stress can produce anxiety and depression .
- Having anxiety increases the risk of suicide.
Risk factors for stress
They are classified in psychological or environmental causes . Although, in reality, stress usually arises from both factors at the same time, combined to a greater or lesser degree.
Psychological or internal agents
- Internal and external control locus: The control locus refers to the firm opinion that the events that occur to us are controlled by what we do (this is the internal control locus) or by external causes that the individual cannot modify (external control locus). If a person suffers from an external locus of control he or she will probably suffer stress because he or she believes that he or she cannot do anything about a dangerous situation.
- Shyness: Some studies indicate that introverted people are more sensitive to a stressful situation and are under more pressure than highly social people to withdraw into themselves and not cope with a given situation.
- Self-influence : When we believe that a situation is threatening we internalize that same pattern in our way of thinking. This is why, when faced with the same context, one person can react with serenity and another with stress.
- Predisposition to anxiety : These are people exposed to feeling restless in the face of uncertainty. Because of this they are inclined to suffer from stress.
Environmental or external agents
- The suspension of habit : When something suddenly ends, it is difficult to adapt to a new routine (which is what gives us a certain stability in our lives) because the psyche deploys all its resources to adapt again to the new context. For example, finishing a holiday.
- The eventuality of the unexpected : The alteration of some aspect of our life always generates a greater or lesser degree of destabilization (even if the change is for the better) ergo it causes us stress. For example, being hired in a new job.
- The contradiction of conflict : It is a mental confusion that causes our internal balance to go to pieces, producing chaos in our mind. To re-establish the order that existed before the chaos requires the person to use all the tools at his disposal, thus producing a remarkable mental fatigue. For example, suffering from a serious illness.
- The helplessness before the immovable : In this context the person cannot do anything since the circumstances exceed the resources available to the person. For example, the death of a relative.
The appearance of stress can lead to serious problems in the future if it is not adequately dealt with , therefore it is necessary to seek treatment and learn practical tools to deal with it. Seeing a clinical psychologist can be a key to learning how to manage the negative emotions and feelings associated with stress.
- Cano, A. (2002). The Nature of Stress. IV International Congress of the Spanish Society for the Study of Anxiety and Stress. Madrid: SEAS.
- Hüther, Gerald (2012). Biology of fear. Stress and feelings. Barcelona: Plataforma Editorial.
- Wulf SAur. (2012). Workplace related diseases. Biomedical Therapy