The 9 types of stress (triggers and characteristics) - medical - 2023



The figures are not deceiving. According to global statistics, in the population between 18 and 65 years old, 9 out of 10 people say they have experienced stress in the last year. And of these, almost half (approximately 42%) indicate that episodes of stress are frequent over time. Unfortunately, we live in a stress-inducing society.

Human beings have created civilizations with demands, life schedules and a constant avalanche of information that is far from what nature had designed for us. We are not biologically adapted to the society we have built. And our body pays the consequences.

Some consequences that are expressed, among many other things, with a stress pandemic that does not understand social classes. This feeling of physical and / or emotional tension that arises in situations that we perceive as threats can end up weakening us at all levels and greatly damage our quality of life.

But is stress always the same? No. Not much less. It is a concept that hides many different nuances and that, in reality, can be expressed in very different ways and in the face of very varied triggers. And in today's article, from the hand of our team of psychologists, we will see what kinds of stress exist and what are their main characteristics.

  • We recommend you read: "The 5 effects of stress on the brain"

What is stress?

Stress is the set of physiological reactions that are activated when experiencing an event that we perceive as a threat or a demand beyond our possibilities and that lead to a state of physical and / or emotional tension.

Stress, in its proper measure, is not a bad thing at all. In fact, it is an absolutely necessary reaction for our survival, as it helps us to stimulate ourselves in the face of stimuli that can pose a danger. Stress is the brain's way of increasing the chances that we will react quickly and accurately to a potential threat.

When the central nervous system processes a situation as a danger, it stimulates the synthesis of adrenaline (in addition to the hormone cortisol), a neurotransmitter that turns on the body's survival mechanisms, accelerating the heart rate, dilating the pupils, inhibiting non-essential physiological functions (such as digestion), increasing the rate of respiration, accelerating the pulse and increasing the sensitivity of our senses.

All these reactions mediated by neurotransmitters and hormones, together with the fact that the brain focuses attention on the threat, help us to anticipate our responses and increase the probability that they will be as effective as possible.

As we can see, on a biological level, stress is not a bad thing. It is a state of tension that, although it is linked to negative feelings, allows us to increase our guarantees of success. The problem is that, in humans, this stress can become chronic. In something that not only arises due to real threats, but is always there or appearing due to events that are not a real danger.

Pathological stress weakens and exhausts us physically and mentally and can even open the door to different diseasesHence, we must adopt measures to reduce it and, if we are not able to deal with it, seek psychological attention. Stress can (and should) be fought.

  • We recommend you read: "The 12 types of neurotransmitters (and what functions do they perform)"

How is stress classified?

Now that we have understood what stress is, we are ready to see what types exist. As we have seen, stress, by itself, is not negative. Therefore, we will see how it is classified according to this parameter and many others. These are the main kinds of stress that people can experience.

1. Positive stress

As we have already discussed, stress is not always a negative thing. And by positive stress we understand those physiological reactions linked to stress but that make us motivated and more energetic. Many times, a controlled point of stress is very good for us to give the most of ourselves.

As long as we are the one who is in control of the situation and stress does not dominate us, it can be positive. Although the situation itself is threatening and creates fear, this degree of stress will give us that extra attention we need.

2. Negative stress

Negative stress is one that we generally associate with the concept of "stress." Also known as distress, negative stress is one that is not associated with positive feelings of motivation and energy, but with the feeling that something is going to go wrong. It is stress winning the game and inhibiting our faculties.

It makes us anticipate a threat believing that the outcome will be negative for us, so anxiety starts to take over, it unbalances us, neutralizes our abilities, generates negative emotions of sadness and anger and, ultimately, reduces the chances that we will get out of this situation successfully.

3. Acute stress

Acute stress is one that 9 out of 10 people experience at least once a year. It is, as its name suggests, a specific situation in which, for different reasons, we experience a momentary episode of stress. It is a short-term stress that also disappears quickly.

Being positive or negative, acute stress can arise in the moments before a job interview or an important exam, before going out to play a soccer game, when we are fighting with our partner, when we think they are following us through the street, etc. The triggers are very varied but there is no underlying disorder, as this acute stress is a normal reaction of the body.

4. Acute episodic stress

A variation of the previous one but that already denotes a stress problem that should be addressed. Acute episodic stress is one that, being typical of people who, due to their own pressure and / or society, they live with unrealistic demands, it manifests itself with more or less recurrent episodes of acute stress.

That is, it is a situation in which episodes of acute stress appear repeatedly with greater or lesser frequency, causing the person to have to live in a continuous state of anxiety that manifests itself with pessimism, irritability, negativity, pain headache, high blood pressure, chest pressure, nervousness ... It requires treatment in the hands of a psychologist, since this form of stress is always negative and without addressing it, it can end up compromising physical and emotional health on many levels.

5. Chronic stress

The most serious form of stress. Chronic stress is one that is not characterized by the recurrent appearance of episodes of acute stress, but rather that the person lives immersed in a continuous state of stress from which they cannot get out. When the state of stress continues for weeks or months, we speak of chronic stress. However, its triggers are usually extreme situations: wars, kidnappings, imprisonments, extreme poverty ...

It is a form of stress that, being linked to maximum hopelessness, is the most destructive of all, leaving physical and emotional consequences whose effects last throughout life. In fact, it is clearly associated with depression, increased suicide risk, extreme insecurity, digestive, skin and heart diseases, and even cancer.

6. Physical stress

We tend to think of the more psychological side of stress. And although that is really the one that adheres the most to the definition, stress can also be purely physical. Physical stress is the set of physiological alterations that are produced organically by the influence of mechanical or chemical stimuli. So we are talking about injuries and their symptoms.

Trauma, cold, bone fractures, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, infections, surgeries, dehydration, substance abuse, lack of oxygen, environmental pollution ... There are many triggers that can leave our body in a state of physical stress without that component of anxiety.

7. Psychological stress

Psychological stress is the best known and is the one that is linked to emotional and cognitive reactions linked to stress. They are all those unpleasant reactions that we experience on a psychological level when we perceive a threat and that, as we have seen, can be positive (if they help us) or negative (if they inhibit us).

Fear, frustration, sadness, anger, guilt, excess information, the hectic pace of life, envy, self-criticism, anxiety, panic attacks, the demands of society ... There are many triggers that can lead to this psychological stress.

8. Psychosocial stress

Psychosocial stress is a form of psychological stress that arises from more or less serious problems as far as our personal relationships are concerned. Its triggers are not found in ourselves, but in the relationships we have and therefore it can be more difficult to handle than the merely psychological one.

Being out of work, having lost a loved one, going through a love breakup or divorce, feeling lonely, having problems with family or friends ... There are many triggers that can give rise to this stress linked to our most social aspect.

9. Psychospiritual stress

Finally, psychospiritual stress is one that is experienced in moments of existential crisis, of doubting one's own values, of not finding a path in life, of having difficulties finding happiness and, ultimately, circumstances associated with the more spiritual concept of our psychology.