Are you constantly stressed and have no idea why? Stress is a natural response from the body which releases hormones to help prepare the system to escape danger. It’s a holdover from the day when we were hunter-gatherers and needed to evade large predatory animals. Nowadays, it’s more often in response to not being able to cope with life’s challenges. According to the American Psychological Association, there are three main types of stress:
1. Acute Stress
And this is one you’ll probably all be familiar with… Acute stress is brief and what most of us feel when we’re late for work, make a massive mistake or anything else that happens in the immediate short-term. It’s basically characterised by reactive thinking.
And either turning over the implications of what’s going to happen and what’s just happened. Or, another way of thinking about it is reactive thinking. A classic example of this is if you’ve been in an argument and you’re still stewing over what’s been said – or not said.
These negative thought-patterns are a textbook example of acute stress.
Signs and Symptoms
- Emotional distress that could present as anger, irritability or anxiety
- Muscular distress (AKA physical symptoms) that could include anything from tension, headaches, back pain, neck pain, or other muscular tension throughout the body
- Stomach problems which could also include the gut and bowel. Heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhoea or constipation.
2. Episodic Acute Stress
If you suffer from episodic acute stress, you’re most likely someone who’s life is in a constant state of flux. Chaos or crisis. You probably take on way too much responsibility, have trouble setting boundaries, don’t know how to say, ‘no.’ And are forever in a rush or feeling pressured. As a result, life becomes an act of spinning plates, which frequently come tumbling down. And when that happens, you experience what’s known as acne stress overload. What you should also know is that there are two main personality types that present with acute stress. These are:
- The Type A Personality
- The Worrier
Type A personalities are what you’d think of as corporate workaholics.
- Impatient with others (Get frustrated when people don’t match their standards)
- Aggressively completive (They will try to win all costs)
- They don’t like their time being wasted
- They’re reactive to setbacks (i.e. they act out emotionally)
- They also have a deep insecurity about their performance
The worrier on the other hand looks something like this:
- They’ll have persistent negative thoughts
- They’ll catastrophise and think the worst in every situation
- They have an innate belief that the world is dangerous
- They tend it be in a heightened state but usually more anxious or depressed
Signs and Symptoms
- Emotional distress that can manifest as anger, irritability, anxiety or depression
- Cognitive distress that can affect attention, concentration, mental acuity (processing time), the ability to learn, forming long-term memory, recall, and mental fatigue
- Problems in interpersonal relationships, especially at the workplace
- Muscular distress which can include tension, headache, back pain and other areas throughout the body
- Stomach problems which could also include the gut and bowel. Heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhoea or constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- High blood pressure, heart palpitations, sweat palm, dizziness, migraines, difficulty breathing, insomnia, chest pain, heart disease
- Immune system issues including frequent bouts of minor cold or flu, allergies, asthma and other complaints.
3. Chronic Stress
This is by far the most harmful type of stress… And can cause long-term irreversible damage to the system if it goes untreated both to your mental and physical well being. Chronic stress occurs when the body experiences external stressors that are so frequent and intense that the autonomic nervous system doesn’t have a chance to relax. Meaning the body is in a state of the near-constant state of psychological arousal. However, identifying chronic stress isn’t always that straightforward, as many people tend to normalise the way they feel and just accept it as who they are…
Some questions you could ask yourself are:
- Do you often feel moody, temperamental or irritable?
- Do you feel like you’re always worrying about something (big or small)?
- Do you feel like you never have enough time to take care of yourself and take downtime?
- Do you find yourself flapping when you experience minor setbacks
- Do you always seem to be fighting off some type of infection?
- Have you been using things like alcohol to regulate your moods?
The long-term impact of chronic stress if left untreated includes all of the symptoms mentioned above, except they will be experienced far more frequently as well as the following:
- Acne and other skin conditions
- Serious Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Low Sex Drive
- Weight Change
The sources of all these types of stress can result from:
- Emotional stress such as difficulty regulating emotions like anger, sadness, grief etc
- Environmental stress that relates to your work and home life
- Relationship stress that can extend to friends, family, co-workers and partners
- Work stress that relates to the specific demands being place on you
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
***If you’re struggling from stress and think you might benefit from speaking to someone, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.
Very Well Mind (3rd Aug 2020) What Is Stress?. Retrieved on 26th July 2021 from, https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-and-health-3145086
Good Thinking (2020) Uncommon Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. Retrieved on 26th July 2021 from, https://www.recoveryranch.com/addiction-blog/uncommon-symptoms-of-borderline-personality-disorder/
Psychology Today (7th Dec 2018) The Three Types of Stress. Retrieved on 26th July 2021 from, https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/open-gently/201812/the-three-types-stress