Stress is a normal part of daily life. The human body is designed to experience stress and then react to it. Stress can be a positive in the sense that it keeps you alert and prepared to avoid danger. However, it can become negative when a person faces continuous challenges and does not give enough time to relaxation and recuperation. Stress can also become harmful if people turn to alcohol or drugs to try and cope, but more often than not, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause further problems.
If you suspect that you are suffering from stress, you can find help from many support agencies. However, stress management can be confusing because there are different types of stress, each with their own characteristics, symptoms and treatment options.
There are four main types of stress:
Acute stress is by far the most common type. It results from the demands and pressures of the recent past and the impending pressures of the near future. It can be thrilling in small doses and can be good for you, because it causes stress hormones to be released, which enable a person’s mind and body to deal with a particular situation e.g. giving a presentation to a crowded conference room. However, too much can be exhausting and lead to serious symptoms like psychological distress.
Acute stress is short-term, so doesn’t have the chance to do any lasting damage, unlike longer-term forms of stress. The most common symptoms of acute stress are:
- Emotional distress
- Muscular problems such as tension headaches and back pain.
- Stomach problems such as constipation and heart-burn.
- An increase in blood pressure, sweaty palms and migraines.
Anyone can suffer from an episode of acute stress, but fortunately it is treatable through rest and relaxation.
Episodic Acute Stress
This type affects those people who suffer from frequent bouts of acute stress. People who suffer from episodic acute stress are generally those who take on too much and struggle to organise themselves around their hectic lifestyles.
It can seriously affect interpersonal skills and cause sufferers to be hostile to others, significantly contributing to the breakdown of relationships at home and in work.
Common symptoms include persistent tension, migraines and chest pains. It can be helped by making certain lifestyle changes. A visit to your GP, is important in seeking help and advice and could prevent episodic acute stress turning into chronic stress.
Chronic stress is a very serious form of stress. It can gradually wear a person down, making them feel “burnt-out.” It occurs when the sufferer cannot find a way to deal with the pressures that continually make them feel stressed.
Chronic stress is caused when the sufferer feels trapped in miserable situations, such as an unhappy marriage or an unsuitable career. It can result in death from violence, suicide, heart attack, stroke, or even cancer. Chronic stress causes the physical and mental resources of the sufferer to deplete, meaning the symptoms are often difficult to treat, but it can be helped with professional and medical help such as special forms of counselling and targeted behavioural therapy.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
This form of stress is associated with distressing events. These can be traumatic experiences from a sufferer’s childhood, or memories caused by war, poverty and sexual abuse. Sufferers of this type of stress relive their traumatic experiences through nightmares or flashbacks which causes their concentration to dwindle and their sleep to be troubled.
Symptoms of PTSD often have a huge negative impact on a sufferer’s life, and include an overwhelming sense of guilt, emotional numbness and depression.
The main forms of treatment are medication and psychotherapy.
Who You Can Turn To
There are numerous agencies to turn to for support with stress management. These include the SupportLine Telephone Helpline, the International Stress Management Association and the Stress Management Society.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing, and anyone can feel it in different ways. If you are feel like you are suffering from any of the types of stress outlined above, the first thing to do is to try making adjustments to your lifestyle. This may include taking more exercise and making more time for relaxation. If your symptoms persist, make an appointment with your GP and remember that there are always people available whose job it is to help you.