Stress is any situation that results in a reaction of the body called the stress response. The stress response is how the body responds to everyday challenges as well as to more threatening or dangerous situations.
The stress response is also known as the "fight or flight" response. In the stress response, the body pumps up its ability to effectively respond to threats, hardships, and adversity in order to increase its chances of survival. The stress response results in the release of cortisol, a hormone that increases blood glucose levels. The stress response also results in stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, leading to the release of catecholamines, especially epinephrine (adrenaline). Catecholamines induce vasoconstriction and increases in heart rate and blood pressure. This increases the amount of nutrients and oxygen that is available to the muscles to react to a situation during the stress response.
At the same time, the stress response temporarily suppresses body functions and systems that are not critical to improving the body's readiness to fight or flee. These include the immune system, digestion, growth and reproductive system.
The stress response effects make the mind more alert and the body better prepared to physically react to dangerous situations, such as being attacked by a mugger. However, the body responds in the same way to any stressful situation, such as financial hardships or the death of a loved one.
Having moderate amounts of short-term stress responses can be helpful in making a person more productive, effective or efficient in everyday life. These stressors, such as having an important exam or a deadline at work, do not last long, and the stress response disappears and the body goes back to normal function after they have passed. This is called acute stress.
However, chronic stress, such as that from long-term financial hardships or ongoing problems at work or with a relationship, do not give the body a chance to return to normal biological functioning. This can result in a negative impact on health and such symptoms as poor concentration, anger, depression, anxiety, rapid heart rate, palpations and muscle tightness.
Over time chronic stress can be a factor in the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of stress.
Making a diagnosis of stress or stress-related conditions and disorders, such as heart disease, begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms and questions about the amount and types of stressors a person has. Other factors evaluated include lifestyle, dietary habits, weight, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, symptoms of depression or anxiety, sleep patterns, and smoking/drinking habits.
A diagnosis also includes completing a physical examination, which may reveal an elevated heart rate (tachycardia) and blood pressure (hypertension).
For people who have experienced chronic stress or have risk factors or symptoms of heart disease or diabetes, diagnostic testing can include a wide variety of tests that evaluate blood sugar and the health of the heart and cardiovascular system. These include glucose blood tests and other blood tests, exercise stress testing, EKG, X-Ray, and imaging tests, such as heart scan, ultrasound and echocardiogram.
A coronary angiogram may be done in certain cases in which there is evidence of significant coronary artery disease. A coronary angiogram is an invasive procedure that reveals which coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked.
It is not unusual that a diagnosis of stress is missed or delayed because some symptoms are similar to symptoms of other diseases and disorders and for other reasons. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of stress.
Treatment of acute stress and chronic stress varies depending on the severity, the cause and other factors. A large part of treatment includes lifestyle changes. Medications may also be needed in some cases. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of stress. ...more »
Emotional stress or just "stress" is not considered a formal psychological disorder.
A psychologist may categorize the condition as "general stress" or perform treatment
for "general stress management", but ordinary levels of stress are
not considered a valid formal psychological diagnosis.
The term "stress" usually refers to emotional or psychological stress in common usage,
but may occasionally refer to physical stress from exertion or exercise,
such as in medical studies of physical conditioning. ...more »
The immediate symptoms of stress include increased heart rate (tachycardia), high blood pressure (hypertension) and dilated pupils. Short-term acute stress can actually help a person to react more quickly, think more clearly, and be more attentive and productive.
However, ongoing stress or chronic stress can overwhelm the body and result in ...more symptoms »
The first step in treating stress is to prevent it. Prevention methods also often are used as a part of a multifaceted treatment program. There are many ways to reduce stress and minimize the long-term complications of chronic stress, such as heart disease, depression, anxiety, and type 2 diabetes. The most effective strategy is to prevent and ...more treatments »
A diagnosis of stress and stress-related diseases or disorders may be delayed because some symptoms, such as headache, muscle tightness, and fatigue, are similar to symptoms of a wide variety of diseases and disorders. These include influenza, muscle strain, and migraine headache.
Additionally, a diagnosis of chronic stress may be delay or ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Stress
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symptoms of Stress
Treatments for Stress
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treatments for Stress
Home Diagnostic Testing
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Wrongly Diagnosed with Stress?
Stress: Related Patient Stories
Read more about Deaths and Stress.
Alternative Treatments for Stress
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Types of Stress
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Stress: Undiagnosed Conditions
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Misdiagnosis and Stress
Undiagnosed stroke leads to misdiagnosed aphasia: BBC News UK reported on a man who
had been institutionalized and treated for mental illness
because he suffered from sudden...read more »
Dementia may be a drug interaction: A common scenario in aged care is for
a patient to show mental decline to dementia.
Whereas this can, of course, occur due to various medical conditions,
such as a stroke or ...read more »
ADHD under-diagnosed in adults: Although the over-diagnoses of ADHD
in children is a well-known controversy, the reverse side related to adults.
Some adults...read more »
Bipolar disorder misdiagosed as various conditions by primary physicians: Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder)
often fails to be diagnosed correctly by primary care physicians.
Many patients with bipolar seek help from...read more »
Eating disorders under-diagnosed in men: The typical patient with
an eating disorder is female.
The result is that men with eating disorders often fail to be diagnosed or
have a delayed diagnosis.
See misdiagnosis...read more »
Depression undiagnosed in teenagers: Serious bouts of depression can be
undiagnosed in teenagers.
The "normal" moodiness of teenagers can cause severe medical depression
to be overlooked....read more »
Undiagnosed anxiety disorders related to depression: Patients with depression (see symptoms of depression)
may also have undiagnosed anxiety disorders (see symptoms of...read more »
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Research about Stress
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Clinical Trials for Stress
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and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.
Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Stress include:
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Clinical Trials for Stress
Statistics for Stress
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Types of Stress
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Article Excerpts about Stress
Stress can arise for a variety of reasons. Stress can be brought about
by a traumatic accident, death, or emergency situation. Stress can also be
a side effect of a serious illness or disease. There is also stress
associated with daily life, the workplace, and family responsibilities.
(Source: excerpt from Stress: NWHIC)
Definitions of Stress:
(psychology) a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense; "he suffered from fatigue and emotional tension"; "stress is a vasoconstrictor"
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
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