Stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. Some common features of things that can make us feel stressed includes experiencing something new or unexpected, something that threatens your feeling of self, or feeling you have little control over a situation. 

How our body reacts to stress

  • When we encounter stress, our body is stimulated to produce stress hormones that trigger a ‘flight or fight’ response and activate our immune system. This response helps us to respond quickly to dangerous situations.  
  • Initially, stress can be helpful in encouraging us to act according to the demands of the situation. But intense and prolonged stress can have adverse effects on our physical and mental health. Trauma- and stress-related disorders result from exposure to a traumatic or stressful event. Specific disorders include acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.  
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop after the experience of an extremely traumatic or stressful event. Someone affected may experience vivid flashbacks or nightmares, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.  
  • Acute stress disorder typically begins immediately after the event and lasts from 3 days to 1 month. If a person experiences a symptom for longer than a month, a doctor will usually assess them for PTSD. 
  • Among people who are genetically susceptible, stress can trigger depression. The episodic stressful life events involved in precipitating depression involve loss of a loved one, serious threats to important close relationships or one’s occupation or serious economic or health problems. 
  • Conversion disorder is almost always triggered by a stressful situation. It is a disorder characterized by physical symptoms in the absence of any physical condition to explain them. The symptoms may include sensory deficits (e.g.blindness, deafness), partial paralysis and selective loss of function (e.g. not being able to use right hand to write), or seizures. The stress that is experienced is converted in the form of physical symptoms which are perceived to be completely unrelated to the stress causing event. 
  • Although biological factors play an important role in contributing to schizophrenia, most often they only act as predisposing factors. Such biological predispositions, lead to psychotic symptoms when they are combined with stressful events like family stress, urban living, immigration etc.
  • Favorable environments and effective management of stress can enhance the effects of the treatment of psychological disorders. People who have effective coping strategies and can manage stress well are also less likely to develop other psychological and physical problems.