Stress Related Disorders

Stress-related disorders include mental health disorders that develop as a result of anxiety-related issues due to physical, mental, or emotional health problems. Some of the most common stress-related illnesses include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Stress is the result of a conscious or unconscious feeling or thought resulting from a traumatic event or pressures placed upon a person mentally or physically. In this case, the pressure placed on the individual may seem, to them, to exceed their physical or mental capabilities. A person may become stressed if they feel threatened, harmed, or challenged by someone else. However, stress has a significant impact on a person's physical and mental health.

The way stress is experienced is very unique and particular to the individual. Stress depends on the overall implications and triggering effects a certain situation may place on a person. This can either be the result of physical experiences or be genetic. In cases of both acute and chronic stress-related disorders, the morbidity rate of the individual increases exponentially - especially in cases of prolonged stress and anxiety.

Is Stress a Mental Disorder?

Stress itself is not considered a mental disorder. Many people will experience stressful situations in which they may feel overwhelmed, however, that alone does not characterize stress-related disorders. Although some disorders from stress may result in symptoms similar to depression and anxiety disorders, people who have suffered through a traumatic experience may experience stress-related symptoms that may appear completely unrelated to the event. In some cases, people may experience violent impulses, aggressive behavior, inability to experience pleasure, restlessness, discontent, numbness, and dissociative tendencies. Severe cases of stress-related issues may develop into other forms of mental illness.

What are the 3 Different Types of Stress?

In psychology, there are three different types of stress: acute, episodic acute, and chronic.


Acute stress is a commonly experienced form of stress. It is defined by more recent influences that have caused a person to feel overwhelmed - whether it be dealings with recently passed events or pressure toward future performance. In some cases, it may be a helpful and thrilling experience that is met with joy, but over time may become exhausting or begin to affect the person's mental health. If someone is a thrill seeker, the stress aligned with their exhilaration might come from a momentary fear for their safety, but soon passes as they accomplish their goal. However, in large doses, it can become exhausting and result in symptoms such as: distress, headaches, body aches, and nausea.

Episodic Acute:

At times, some individuals may suffer from frequent episodes of acute stress. This may be derived from an excessive sense of doom, fear of the unknown, pessimistic beliefs or tendencies, or being placed in situations which cause them to be consistently overwhelmed. In some cases, this can be a result of lifestyle choices, habits, occupation, or abusive situations. Some of the most common symptoms of episodic stress are: tension headaches, migraines, high blood pressure, chest pains, and, at times, can lead to heart disease.


Chronic stress is the result of prolonged, frequent battles with anxiety, fear, and foreboding. This can occur as a result of an individual seeing no way out of their painful situation or recurring traumatic events. These can include: financial struggles, dysfunction in the home, marriage troubles, or feeling trapped in an unsatisfactory occupation. Some cases of chronic stress form from childhood trauma or recent traumatic event that has desolated the person's mental health over time. People who suffer from chronic stress are at risk of developing stress-related disorders, suffer from severe depression, suicidal thoughts, impulsive acts of violence, heart attacks, strokes, and other health-related issues.

What are the Symptoms of Stress Disorders?

Stress disorder symptoms commonly manifest themselves in four different categories.

  • Intrusion symptoms: involves recurring painful memories, thoughts, and nightmares connected to a traumatic event - flashbacks, dissociative experiences, and feelings of recurring events.


  • Avoidance symptoms are physical or mental actions taken in order to prevent or avoid painful internal or external stressors. At times, these actions can overcome the person's life where they spend the majority of their day ensuring they avoid any and all activities that may trigger a traumatic experience.


  • Negative alterations: are symptoms which affect the mood and cognitive abilities of the individual. These can include related disorders or bouts of depression, feelings of fear, shame, and isolation.


  • Hyper-arousal symptoms are impulsive by nature and may include physical effects such as: hyperactivity, irritability, violent outbursts, self-harm, concentration issues, and insomnia.

What Are Some Stress Related Disorders?

There are five common stress-related disorders.

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

Reactive attachment disorder is defined by an inability to express emotional or physical attachment to others. In children, symptoms may include a disinterest in physical or emotional comfort when distressed or a lack of responsive emotions. At times, this is a result of neglect and lack of proper caregiving in order for the child to develop relationships. In adults, these symptoms may increase and hinder them from forming close relationships and potentially lead to other mental illnesses.

Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder

Disinhibited social engagement disorder is a stress-related disorder characterized by behavior deemed culturally and socially inappropriate. This can include inappropriate behavior, oversharing intimate information, or close, physical familiarity with strangers.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is the result of past traumatic events significantly impacting the person's mental health. This is often the result of reliving, remembering, or having nightmares associated with past trauma.

Acute Stress Disorder

Acute stress disorder or episodic acute distress order is similar in effect to PTSD, but typically holds a shorter duration following the stressful situation.

Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder is a disorder that presents itself with symptoms with an identifiable cause. These may include work-related stressors, moving to a different state, environmental or lifestyle changes, or educational shifts. Adjustment disorder is typically a short-term experience and changes as the person becomes more comfortable with the change.

What are the 6 Types of Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are closely related to stress disorders. More often than not, feelings of stress are a result of anxiety regarding a past traumatic event, internal fears, or obsessive thoughts and tendencies. The six types of anxiety disorder associated with stress disorders include:

Generalized Anxiety: consists of fear of the future, anxiety regarding altered schedules, a sense of incompleteness, and more. This disorder might have physical implications such as fatigue, sleeping disorders, increased heart rate, inability to focus, muscle stress or soreness, or worry.

Agoraphobia: Agoraphobia is the feeling of intense fear where escape may be challenging or uncomfortable to experience. Agoraphobia may also include the fear of being unaccompanied outdoors. When agoraphobia is left untreated, it can lead to an illogical fear of leaving home or being alone.

Panic Disorder: Panic disorder is a recurring experience of extreme stress, anxiety, and worry. Panic disorder is most commonly connected with erratic anxiety attacks or other intense sensations of stress, anxiety, or fear.

Phobias: A phobia is an intense fear of an item, person, place, or thing. Different phobias may consist of the fear or flying, the fear of clowns, spiders, public speaking, enclosures, and more.

Social Anxiety Disorder: Social anxiety disorder or social phobia, is common stress and anxiety condition that encompasses public speaking, fear of remaining in public spaces, or aversions to social interactions. Social phobia does not just involve the fear of public speaking but can include eating or drinking in public, casual social settings, or leaving the house.

Separation Anxiety Disorder: Separation stress and anxiety is an extreme, illogical worry of being separated from a loved one. This worry can arise when the person is present or absent (fear of them leaving for a specific reason, or fear of them being harmed while apart).

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