Types of Stress

When thinking about types of stress there are two perspectives to consider (besides whether it is the "good stress" or the "bad stress" of course).

  • Stress from a Physicist's perspective
  • Stress from Psychological perspective

You were probably searching for information about psychological stress, and may be interested in some quick stress relief tips. But it might help to understand what psychological stress is if we understand the stress that physicists talk about. In Physics, stress is a reaction to an external force. Too much stress, and an object breaks or changes form.

That said, this page talks about types of psychological stress from here on out. We can talk about psychological stress according to whether it is "good" or "bad." Or, we can talk about stress according to its time line. I explain both ways of talking about stress below.

Types of Stress: Good and Bad

In psychological perspective, there is "good" stress and "bad" stress.

Good stress: Eustress

Eustress (pronounced YOU-stress) can be fun, exciting and energizing, especially in the short-term. Face a sudden danger and resolve the situation safely, and you'll get pumpted and excited; like when we are racing to meet an exciting deadline, getting dressed for our wedding, or flying down a ski slope. It keeps our juices flowing.

Just the right amount of stress is stimulating and healthy. We perform tasks faster and better. Our muscles strengthen. Heart function improves. Stamina increases. Thinking sharpens. Some experts say eustress even helps our bodies resist infection!

Bad stress: Distress

Ah! But then there isthe bad stress. When we think of types of stress, distress is what we have in mind. In fact we usually call it "stress," plain and simple.

Here are some examples of situations that create distress.

  • A truck swerves into your lane.
  • A lost job reduces your income.
  • You or a loved one is injured.

When we are under distress, we usually change and can even break inside. It hurts! Here are symptoms of distress that prove such a change is happening inside .


  • Emotional distress symptoms.
    • anger
    • irritability and frustration
    • anxiety and panic
    • fear
  • Physical distress symptoms.
    • headache
    • back pain
    • neck pain
  • Intestinal or gut distress symptoms.
    • heartburn
    • flatulence
    • diarrhea or constipation
    • stomach cramping
    • acid reflux
    • nausea
  • Arousal distress symptoms.
    • sudden rise in blood pressure
    • rapid heartbeat and palpitations
    • dizziness
    • shortness of breath
    • chest pain

Acute and Chronic:
Types of Stress on a Timeline

Distress can come - and end - suddenly, or it can linger. Types of stress - or more properly, distress - are listed below according to how they come on and how long they last.

Acute distress is the most common of the types of stress. It comes on quickly and is usually short-lived. It is the most intense stress.

When it's all over - and we are safe - we can stop and take some deep breaths, put a hand over our racing heart, and say "Phew! THAT was exciting!" Then we move on with a thrilling story to share.

Acute Episodic Distress refers to a situation where acute stress seems to be a way of life. Life is constantly filled with one stressful event after another after another. Chaos and crisis reign along with Murphy's Law.

If you have acute episodic distress you may have a never-ending to-do list, may have trouble saying no, and may seem to be always in a hurry while seldom being on time. You may come across as abrupt, insensitive, and irritable with other people at home, at work, at the grocery store, even in purely social situations.

You may have the worry habit and engage in blaming. You believe the world is a scary, mean, and dangerous place. And you really suffer because of that belief. Just take a look back at that list of symptoms above.

Acute episodic stress response can actually become a habit that is difficult that is difficult to break. A Life and Wellness Coach starts a process to get relief from the pain of that type of stress. Some sufferers may even need help from a therapist or a medical professional to begin recovery.

Chronic Distress is the type of stress that arises out of long-lasting events and circumstances beyond your control. According to Monika Fleshner, a neuroimmunophysiologist at the University of Boulder, Colo. who has studied stress and the immune system. She says "It’s only under the circumstances of chronic stress or extreme, severe stress that we suffer negative effects."

Here are some examples of situations that cause chronic distress.

  • Living with constant relational conflict.
  • Feeling trapped in poverty.
  • Caring for someone with significant illness or disabilities.
  • Being overwhelmed by a job or feeling trapped in a career that doesn't feel right.
  • Living with unresolved childhood trauma.

Chronic distress often results in feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and misery. You feel there is no way out.

Besides the list of symptoms above, you may suffer from the conditions below related to distress in your life.

  • high blood pressure
  • a weight problem
  • cancer
  • ulcers
  • sexual dysfunction
  • allergies
  • suicidal thoughts
  • stoke anorexia
  • heart disease

If you suffer from chronic distress, you may need medical and behavioral professionals in addition to a stress management professional such as a life coach.

Perhaps the hardest part of chronic distress is that people just get used to it. They think that is the way life is supposed to be. But being used to a situation doesn't make the symptoms any less dangerous to the person, in fact it becomes even more difficult to be a healthy happy person and live up to everything that is possible for you when the stress goes underground.

Which type of stress are you dealing with? Would you like help? There are lots of ways to deal with stress! This page Quick Stress Relief offers some quick and easy tips for how to deal with with stress in your life.

And dealing with all typs of stress at a deeper level is what we do as life coachs. We help people figure out how to turn the stress in their life into good type of stress!

One of the best and easiest ways is to journal. You can have access to a free online journal to help you to begin reversing the damage of stress in your life.


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