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Trying to give a definition of stress is very difficult since many authors have tried to do it from different points of view. In general terms, we could speak of stress as a state of hyperactivity of the organism produced, either by intense situations that generate anxiety, or by small circumstances of daily life, but maintained over time, which mobilize defense mechanisms to preserve the balance of the own organism (what in technical terms is called homeostasis).

  1. There is a first phase called Alarm activated when the body identifies the stressful situation. Before this first reaction there are two phases: shock and countershock. The first response is immediate and produces a combination of several physiological symptoms: blood pressure, the heartbeat accelerates, dry mouth … This period is called shock, then the countershock begins, which is when the body mobilizes its defenses.
  2. In the second phase or stage of Resistance, we are so focused on making a decision that we do not notice the physical sensations even if the shoe bothers us because it is new and it squeezes us.
  3. The last phase is Exhaustion, a state that should never be reached. When a stressful event is very severe or prolonged, the initial symptoms reappear and the body will continue at the high activation level for a long time, demanding more and more of it.

Why and how is it produced?

Faced with a situation, a first evaluation is generated by the individual that is automatic and that produces initial physiological responses. If it is not perceived as a threat, there is no stress response and the body stabilizes again, after a little scare.

However, if it is perceived as a threat, there is another evaluation phase, this one more controlled, in which the demands of the situation and the estimation of resources are calculated in order to execute the coping behaviors.

If these coping behaviors have positive consequences and allow us to obtain an adequate assessment of control and overcoming the stressful situation, the body will return to its natural balance. If the responses are not evaluated as positive, since the expected results are not obtained, the physiological stress responses will return again, activating the organism with new demands.

The hypothalamus, the physical nucleus that perceives the threat or danger, activates the physiological stress response by choosing between different axes (axis I, II and III): the neural, neuroendocrine and endocrine axes.

Depending on where the activation derives, certain organs will be more activated than others (for example, the muscles, the circulatory system , the digestive system …) and these are the target organs.

If every time we identify a stressor, a different target organ is activated (sometimes the heart, other times the stomach), they will be able to relax from the demands that stress demands on them; But if every time we activate the organism, it is the heart that suffers, we are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than other people, all other things being equal, who do not suffer from stress.

Consequences of stress

When stress triggers the body immediately, it triggers an increase in the Central and Peripheral Nervous System (axis I or neural). This translates into increased respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, as well as increased tension in the body’s muscles, which it prepares for a flight reaction. The activation of this axis does not usually have more consequences since this situation cannot be maintained for a long time.

If the stress is continuous, it is when axis II or neuroendocrine is activated, producing an increase, among others, in blood pressure, in the blood supply to the brain, in the amount of blood expelled in each heart beat. Decreases blood flow to the skin, kidneys, gastrointestinal system. All of this increases the risk of hypertension, thrombus formation, angina pectoris, arrhythmias, or even sudden death from fatal arrhythmia.

When axis III or endocrine is activated it is because the tension is much more sustained and intense. The effects of this axis are slower but also longer lasting. Increases the production of glucose or urea among others, increases gastric irritation, susceptibility to arterio-sclerotic processes. Suppresses the immune mechanisms and appetite. You develop feelings associated with depression, helplessness, hopelessness, and loss of control.

How is it diagnosed?

Generally, people do not go to the psychologist directly because we think that we have stress, as can happen when we sneeze and we tell the doctor that we are constipated. The first consequences of stress are usually exhaustion, stomach pain, palpitations, depending on the target organ on which the activation of stress falls. Therefore, it is either the general practitioners or the specialists of the different pathologies who refer the subject to the psychologist for the analysis of a possible stress disorder that is the origin of the different anomalies presented.

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The psychologist must carry out an inventory of experiences that have happened in his life in the last year, in the last two or since his stomach disorders began, since stress is cumulative. The objective is to identify if the origin of the stress lies in a specific but intense situation that has not yet been overcome (for example, the death of a spouse) or if it is a more prolonged circumstance, such as caring for a child. close relative who is ill.

This analysis is useful to know if there really are objective situations that cause stress or, where appropriate, if there is a tendency to interpret events inordinately. If this were the case, it would be necessary to distinguish what types of thoughts it emits in what variety of situations to ultimately specify the stressor that causes the subsequent physical activation. Depending on this differentiation in the origin of stress (either internal or external), some techniques or others will be chosen in the psychological treatment.

On the other hand, it is very important to analyze the consequences, which of them suffers and in what intensity (light, moderate, extreme) in order to personalize, as much as possible, the diagnosis of stress. It is also necessary to make a list of what solution or solutions has been carried out in the experiences lived as stressful as well as the consequences that these have had in his environment, in the symptoms he suffers and in his way of reinterpreting everything that happened.

Treatment for stress

In some cases, a specific medication such as tranquilizers or anxiolytics will be needed, which must be prescribed by your GP or psychiatrist. If the stress is somatized, damaging a target organ, the specific pharmacology of the ailment will also be convenient for the stomach, the heart, the headaches …

While this medication is true that it helps you feel better, it should not be the only procedure to follow. Let’s not forget that drug treatment must be punctual and not continue beyond what is necessary. If, at the same time that the medicine is taken, the necessary psychological treatment has not been followed in parallel to allow him to improve the control of stressful situations, there is a risk that, as soon as the medication is finished, he will relapse again little by little a situation similar to the one that triggered the previous process.

From the psychological point of view, the first thing to do is a diagnosis (as explained in the previous section) of your problem as accurate as possible in order to prescribe an individualized psychological treatment for your case. Basically, psychological treatment consists of teaching a series of techniques that allow you to overcome your discomfort, not only in a specific way in the specific situation that you now suffer, but also in others that may occur later.

Avoid stress

Stress prevention goes through knowledge. Knowledge of oneself (of your body, your thoughts, your reactions, your personality …) and the reality that you have to live. In this way you can make a list of the usual events that occur in your life in an analysis carried out with some assiduity. In this way, a certain familiarity with the facts (with the feelings and thoughts that they trigger) is achieved, as well as with the changes that they entail. It is also customary to anticipate these events and to be able to plan them in advance whenever possible.

When planning, you need to think about the best way to adapt to these changes, that you dedicate all the time necessary to make the decision and, when it has to be carried out, you should do it as calmly as possible.

We cannot forget that the first time we do something we do not get as good as we want and it is only through practice that we achieve the objectives in the most appropriate way and in the right time. Remember, if you have a driving license, the first time you parked your car and how and how long it took to do so after several years of driving experience.

For this, it is necessary that you take the tasks of life as something that is part of your daily life and not as an insurmountable problem or with the confidence of failing in the attempt. Remember that one must learn from the mistakes one makes.

To begin with all these recommendations, you may want to reflect on the activities you do throughout the week. To do this, write down daily how much time you spend doing the following things: sleeping, eating, cleaning, working, leisure, family, friends, others … (add all those that you think necessary).

It would also be convenient to analyze your habits. For example, you spend three hours eating, but what do you eat? Is it a balanced diet? Do you work while you eat?… Maybe you have two hours of leisure a day, but do you spend them watching television? Are you going to do sports with your friends …?

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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