The 3 Different Types of Stress and How Each Can Affect Our Health

Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It is our body’s normal response to pressure, change or other stressors.

While it is normal for us to experience stress, there are times when it occurs too frequently and poses a threat to our health.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are three different types of stress, and each can take a toll on our bodies. They include:

  1. Acute stress – We experience acute stress multiple times each day. It can occur when there is a challenge, a perceived threat or when something unexpected happens- examples include: giving a speech, arguing with a spouse, getting stuck in traffic or getting a speeding ticket. The symptoms of acute stress develop quickly and do not last long. Some people may experience irritability, anxiety, sweating, headaches, stomach pains or a rapid heartbeat.
  2. Episodic acute stress – This occurs when we frequently experience acute stress and can develop as a result of taking on too much responsibility or being overburdened. Type “A” personalities or people who worry constantly are more prone to experience this type of stress. The symptoms of episodic acute stress are similar to those of acute stress; however, they occur more often and accumulate.  If not managed properly, symptoms can lead to serious health problems such as clinical depression or heart disease.
  3. Chronic stress- The APA defines chronic stress as stress that is constant and persists over an extended period of time. It is the most harmful type of stress to our overall health. Chronic stress can be caused by poverty, abuse of any kind, a poor work environment, having a dysfunctional marriage or family, or substance abuse.  Symptoms of chronic stress can become overwhelming or debilitating. Some people may experience fatigue, changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping, headaches or difficulty concentrating.  Chronic stress left untreated for a long period of time can have serious consequences and lead to health problems such as insomnia, obesity, heart disease, hypertension or diabetes.

Our bodies can handle stress for a short period of time. It is not equipped to cope with long-term or chronic stress. Seeking healthy ways to manage stress can help us to avoid the risk of developing health complications. If you are experiencing long-term symptoms of stress, you should speak with a doctor or mental health provider immediately.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.