3 Different Types of Stress

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Did you know that up to 90% of all human diseases are linked to stress? In fact, managing stress and its related symptoms is increasingly becoming a central focus of mental and physical healthcare because it can be so dangerous to our health and well-being.

As researchers have spent more time studying stress and its effects, it has become clear that there isn’t just one type of stress.

In fact, stress can be categorized several different ways. Here are the different types of stress.

Different Types of Stress: 4 Types of Symptoms

There are four different types of stress categories. Stress can be categorized as:

Physical Stress

Physical stress is the body’s response to a stressful condition. Physical stress is usually a response to a trauma or injury but can also be caused by more prolonged stressors like physical labor, dehydration, pollution, and fatigue. Physical stress can also be caused by illnesses, infections, hormone imbalance, and other physical conditions.

Psychological Stress

Psychological stress is a mental and emotional response to experiences. Psychological stress can be a response to a crisis or catastrophe, even if a person wasn’t personally involved in the situation.

Psychological stress can also be caused by significant life events, even if they are happy events like weddings, moves, or promotions. Psychological stress can also be created by seemingly minor daily annoyances, like traffic and crowds, irritating coworkers, managing deadlines, etc.

Psychosocial Stress

Psychosocial stress is typically caused by stress in our real or perceived relationships with others. For example, difficulty in a marriage or in family life is a common cause of psychosocial stress. Psychosocial stress can also be caused by feelings of loneliness and isolation or feelings that a person isn’t as successful as others.

Psychospiritual Stress

Psychospiritual stress is sometimes classified with psychological stress, but it is stress caused by questions of life goals and meaning. It is caused when people question the purpose of their lives and activities or when a person’s behavior isn’t aligned with their values.

Different Types of Stress: 3 Types of Severity

While different stress types affect different parts of our body and mind, stress can also be categorized by the severity and duration of symptoms. Here are the different kinds of stress severity.

Acute Stress

Acute stress is a reaction to a specific stressful event, usually a sudden trauma. Acute stress is often triggered by accidents, injuries, calamities, or grief. The symptoms are very severe and include:

  • Physical reactions, including a pounding heart, a feeling of sickness or nausea, chest pain, headache, abdominal pains, or shortness of breath
  • Mental reactions including anxiety, depression, irritability, sudden mood changes, inability to concentrate, inability to sleep, or a feeling of isolation, remoteness, and detachment
  • Behavioral reactions including avoiding anything that reminds you of the stressor, recurrent dreams or flashbacks, or reckless and aggressive behavior

Acute stress is so severe that it is usually impossible to ignore, and people need to manage their symptoms right away.

When acute stress signs and symptoms persist for longer than three consecutive days and are accompanied by dissociation, a person may have Acute Stress Disorder. When symptoms persist for much longer, it may be indicative of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Different Types of Stress

Episodic Acute Stress

Episodic acute stress is when a person frequently experiences the signs and symptoms of acute stress. For example, a person may have acute stress episodes every day at work, or every time there is a conflict with a family member.

Episodic acute stress is usually associated with Type A personalities who take on too many responsibilities in their lives and are under constant pressure or in high-conflict and high-tension living environments.

Many of these people don’t recognize their stress symptoms and don’t consider it a problem because of their personality type.

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress occurs when a person experiences physical, psychological, psycho-social, or psychospiritual stress for a long time. They often feel trapped in an unhappy situation and that they have no hope for improvement. Symptoms of chronic stress include:

  • Physical reactions like weight gain and heart disease
  • Mental reactions including anxiety, depression, inability to sleep, inability to concentrate, and poor memory

Chronic stress is a particularly dangerous health condition because constant and prolonged exposure to elevated stress hormones can cause such a wide range of health problems.

It suppresses our own body’s ability to heal and fight diseases and infections, so it is a precursor for a considerable variety of adverse health effects, often called Chronic Stress Syndrome.

Many people with chronic stress are also unlikely to seek help for their stress because they believe they are trapped in their situation and cannot change it.

When they seek treatment, they often seek medical care for heart disease, diabetes, or other physical effects, without treating the underlying stress source.

Of course, not all stress is bad: The elevated heart rate, heightened attention, and faster muscle response of stress are often beneficial, not just for fight-or-flight survival but also for athletic or personal performance.

Stress is our natural response to a wide range of challenges and helps us meet and overcome them. However, the natural and beneficial kinds of stress are eased and go away once we have overcome the challenge.

When stress is constant or unresolved by overcoming a challenge or accomplishing a goal, it can become painful and destructive, in ways we are only now beginning to understand.

No matter what type of stress you are experiencing, it’s essential to take it seriously and work to ease your stress and give your mind and body a break.


If you are experiencing stress, understand what type of stress you have and how it affects you. If you struggle to ease your stress alone, seek help from friends, family, and medical or mental health professionals. Stress is a serious condition, but it is also manageable and doesn’t have to dominate your life.

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