Distress vs Stress: What is the Difference?

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Almost every person deals with some type of stress in their life. You will often hear people using the terms stress and distress interchangeably to describe their situation. You might have even used these terms at some point, but the truth is that these two terms don’t mean the same thing. It is about time that you know the difference between distress and stress so that you can use them accurately and better understand each one.

What Does Stress Mean?

Stress is essentially the response that a human has to the stressors around them. It is an umbrella term that encompasses variations of stresses, such as eustress and distress. Technically, whenever you’re put in a stressful situation, called a “stressor”, your brain immediately responds to it by justifying it as a threat.

There are many types of stressors, though. For instance, the possibility of becoming unemployed in the next few months is a huge stressor. This is bound to make you “stress out”, as you would call it. A range of stressors exists that can be inherent or external. Each of these causes a different type of stress, which we will discuss below.

Are Stress and Distress the Same Thing?

Before moving on to the different stress types, let’s address the central question – is stress the same thing as distress? The answer is yes and no. The yes part of the solution revolves around how distress comes under the broad term of stress. Prolonged stress causes distress for several people. Yes, distress is a type of stress. However, they do not mean the same thing. You can have different types of stress that aren’t distress.

Moreover, distress always has a negative connotation, but this theory does not hold for other types of stress. According to recent studies, there is a possibility of positive stress, as well, which is known as eustress. Thus, when you hear someone say they are stressed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are in distress.

Types of Stress

To make the distinction clearer, you should know about the different types of stress.

Positive Stress: Eustress

A more recently understood type of stress is known as eustress. According to many findings, this occurs when positive stressors are placed around you. Various situations can result in eustress, such as relocating, starting a new job, childbirth, and other conditions that result in a positive outcome.

The stress that comes with such situations only motivates us to perform better in these circumstances. This is not supposed to be bad. Instead, it is supposed to help and assist you in overcoming the situation.

Negative Stress: Distress

Now, let’s understand what distress is. Essentially, it is known as a negative type of stress that results in prolonged stressful situations. It occurs when your body isn’t able to manage the stressors around you. Keep in mind that distress results from any kind of prolonged stress, such as chronic or acute.

If not taken care of, distress can result in various psychological issues. Therefore, it is essential to understand whether or not you’re suffering from distress in order to get relevant help. Distress can form because of internal and external factors. For instance, if you have persistent fears about something, this can result in a phobia.

Other Types of Stress: Acute and Chronic

You will also find other types of stress that prevail, such as acute and chronic stress. Acute stress isn’t something that is considered to cause any damage to you at all. It is merely a once-in-a-while thing where you might feel stressed because of a specific situation, such as your alarm not going off on time before a meeting. You can overcome acute stress with the help of aromatherapy or breathing exercises.

Chronic stress occurs when your stress levels remain high for several months. It can result in a series of mental challenges over time. It is essential to get chronic stress treated by professionals to overcome the negative impact it has on your health.

How to Cope With Stress

When dealing with stress, it is vital to make sure you know how to cope with it. Depending on your stress levels, you can have a relatively easier or difficult time dealing with it. Let’s look at some of the things you can do to overcome stress.


The first thing that you need to focus on is allowing yourself to understand that you’re under stress. Self-awareness is the only way that you can understand what is going on with your body. When you know how your body reacts to stressors, you will be able to take care of it better. Practicing breathing exercises and mental chants can help you overcome stressful situations.


Many times, stressful situations arise because of a lack of planning. To ensure that you avoid being put under stress for long periods of time, you must try to plan your goals accordingly. Following through with your planning will help you see the outcome. Doing so enables you to lower your stress levels and helps you get better control of the situation.


Many studies suggest that self-care enables you to better deal with stress. By practicing yoga and meditation, you help yourself become more equipped to deal with situations that cause stress. However, this is only a temporary form of relief.

Professional Assistance

When you feel like things are getting out of control, you should seek professional help. Some severe consequences of stress are depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. If you find yourself suffering from any such adverse mental or physical problems, you should immediately reach out to a professional. However, it would be best not to wait until your stress spills over to seek help. Getting therapy at the right time ensures that you remain mentally healthy.

Bottom Line

There are plenty of remedies available for you to cope with stress. However, if this turns into distress, where your emotions and feelings are out of control, you should seek professional help for therapy and treatment.

Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos
This site contains affiliate links to products. We will receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
Special offer for our visitors

Get your Free Stress Management Guide

We will never send you spam. By signing up for this you agree with our privacy policy and to receive regular updates via email in regards to industry news and promotions