“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Stress, management, stress symptom, stress relief, what is stress:

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: June 8, 2020

Stress: We hear about the negative effects of stress daily. Many of us believe we’re under more stress today than our parents were 30 years ago. If you believe this, you are correct.

Time magazine's June 6, 1983 cover story called stress "The Epidemic of the Eighties" and referred to it as our leading health problem. There can be little doubt that the situation has progressively worsened since then.

Numerous surveys confirm that adult Americans perceive they are under much more stress than a decade or two ago.

A 1996 Prevention magazine survey found that almost 75% feel they have "great stress" one day a week with one out of three indicating they feel this way more than twice a week. In the same 1983 survey only 55% said they felt under great stress on a weekly basis. One can assume that today’s level of perceived stress is even more impacting than it was in 1996.

It has been estimated that 75 - 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems.

Job stress is far and away the leading source of stress for adults but stress levels have also escalated in children, teenagers, college students, and the elderly for other reasons, including:

  • increased crime,
  • violence and other threats to personal safety;
  • pernicious peer pressures that lead to substance abuse and other unhealthy life style habits;
  • social isolation and loneliness;
  • the erosion of family and religious values and ties;
  • the loss of other strong sources of social support that are powerful stress busters;
  • the more increasingly sense of loss of control.

What is stress?

Stress is a complex phenomenon. It has been defined in many ways, but simply put, “it is the wear and tear of everyday life”.

As we all know, some days seem more stressful than others and some times it seems there is no letup. Daily stress is unavoidable and if it was properly managed, it wouldn’t cause too many health problems. On-going stress, however, when not managed well, is at the root of a great many illnesses.

Common medical opinion suggests that 96% of all illness is either a direct result of stress, or greatly aggravated by it.

The majority of people know what the basics of stress often look like, but we often miss the more intricate workings of stress and its affect on the body and mind.

Stress is a physical and psychological response to perceived demands and pressures from without and from within.

To respond to these demands and pressures, we mobilize physical and emotional resources (which produce stress hormones to increase in the body).

Too frequent, extreme, or prolonged mobilization strains us and generates distress signals. The body can convey distress signals in a variety of ways, often in the form of symptoms including:

  • irritability
  • anger
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • tension headaches
  • stomachaches
  • hypertension
  • migraine headaches
  • ulcers
  • heart conditions
  • colitis
  • and a number of other possible symptoms (many that are listed in the Anxiety Symptoms section of this website)

Eventually, stress can lead to even more serious illness, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes or thyroid dysfunction.

Heart related diseases rank #1 in the top ten causes of death.

Cancer ranks #3

Diabetes ranks #7

What kinds of things can cause stress?

There are many factors that can cause stress, such as financial pressures, relationship difficulties, career pressures, heavy workloads, unrealistic expectations, child problems, and aging, to name a few.

While these factors can result in stress, it’s our perception of these events (how we think and feel about them) that actually causes the chemical and psychological responses that can either help or harm the body and mind.

What are the physiological effects of stress?

Both pleasant and unpleasant stress affects the body and mind in similar physiological ways. For example, winning a large sum of money may result in pleasant stress that produces an excited and happy response (when we think about the many things that a large sum of money may bring). The physiological aspects may include increased heart rate, blood pressure, energy, and mental activity, to name a few. A difficult relationship breakup, however, can also cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, mental activity, and other similar biological reactions.

These physiological consequences occur because stress causes an immediate and proportional release of stress hormones (as well as a number of other chemicals and components) to flood into the bloodstream whenever we sense we are being stressed (the member's area of this website contains an in-depth description of the biological and physiological consequences of stress).

What are the psychological effects of stress?

In addition to the many physiological consequences associated with stress, we also pay psychological and emotional prices when we experience unrelieved stress. For example, anxiety and panic attack conditions, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, drug addiction, and alcoholism can result from, or can be aggravated by, unrelieved stress.

Other symptoms such as persistent anger, frustration, feeling overwhelmed, lack of motivation, fear, low mood, unhappiness, sleep problems, difficulty thinking, short-term memory loss, and depersonalization (feeling detached from life or feeling that you are living in a dream-state) frequently occur when stress is allow to build and remain high.

What are the implications of long-term stress?

Persistent unrelieved stress can negatively affect our lives. It can even prove deadly. No longer is stress just a “buzz” word. It’s a vast epidemic.

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What can I do to prevent the negative effects of stress from impacting my life?

  • Seek to truly understand stress, what it is, what it can do, and how to better manage it.
  • Become aware of the stress in your life.
  • Take immediate action to better manage it and your health.
  • Make the necessary changes in your lifestyle and approach to life permanent.
  • Make a life-long commitment to better managing stress. The more proficient you are at managing it, the healthier your life will be.

This is a brief overview of stress and its implications. For more detailed information about stress and its affects on our life, the member’s area of our website contains a wealth of stress information including a detailed listing of the biological and psychological aspects associated with stress, complete descriptions of common stress and anxiety symptoms, numerous stress management and reduction strategies, as well as tips on how to develop your own personal stress management program.

To see what your stress level is

Finally, help and lasting relief from panic attacks, anxiety, fear, phobias and stress.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources:

Return to Anxiety Disorders Signs and Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and professional therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including: Stress and its symptoms.