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Stress-Related Mental Illnesses

Stress can arise from both positive and negative events or situations. It can be caused by a wide range of factors, including work-related pressures, relationship problems, financial difficulties, major life changes, health issues, and more.

Navigation: What is the Relationship Between Stress and Mental Health?, What Are Stress-Related Mental Illnesses?, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Acute Stress Disorder, Adjustment Disorders, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Protecting Your Mental Health: Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


Everyone experiences stress. Although it’s not a pleasant feeling, stress is not actually an illness. In fact it’s normal to feel stressed every now and then because life throws a lot of challenges at us.

However, long term stress can lead to certain mental illnesses. Mental health experts agree that there are connections between stress and mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and even psychosis.

But what exactly does it mean to be stressed? And when does stress give way to mental illness?

Stress is a term used to describe the physical, mental, and emotional strain or tension experienced by an individual in response to various demands or challenges.

Stress can arise from both positive and negative events or situations. It can be caused by a wide range of factors, including work-related pressures, relationship problems, financial difficulties, major life changes, health issues, and more.

When a person encounters stress, their body undergoes a physiological response known as the “fight-or-flight” response. This response involves the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare the body to deal with perceived threats or challenges.

Physiological changes associated with stress can include increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, heightened alertness, tense muscles, and rapid breathing.

While some level of stress can be motivating and help individuals perform better under pressure, excessive or prolonged stress can have negative effects on both physical and mental well-being. It can lead to various health problems, including headaches, sleep disturbances, digestive issues, weakened immune system, and increased risk of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease. So as you can see, stress can have an impact on a person’s physical and mental health.

Managing stress is important for maintaining a person’s mental health and well-being. Here we will talk about some of the most common mental health problems and behavioural symptoms that are related to stress.


What is the Relationship Between Stress and Mental Health?

Stress and mental health are closely intertwined. They are said to have a significant impact on one another. While stress is a natural response to challenging or demanding situations, chronic or excessive stress can have detrimental effects on mental health.

Stress is the body’s natural response to a perceived threat or pressure, meaning it’s not entirely harmful. Stress triggers the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, preparing the body for a “fight-or-flight” response. This acute stress response can be beneficial in short-term situations, helping us cope with challenges.

However, when stress becomes persistent or overwhelming, it can lead to chronic stress. Chronic stress occurs when a person experiences ongoing stressors without sufficient time for recovery and relaxation. There are times when we feel like we keep encountering new obstacles and challenges with barely enough time to breathe. This can happen at work, at home, or in other environments.

Chronic stress can lead to physical and mental health problems because your mind and body become exhausted.

Chronic stress can significantly impact mental health and contribute to the development of various mental health conditions, which we will talk about later. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones can disrupt the balance of chemicals in the brain, affecting mood, cognition, and the person’s overall well-being.

Continued exposure to stress even creates a feedback loop. This means mental health issues like anxiety and depression can make people more susceptible to stress. People with these conditions tend to be more sensitive to stressors, have difficulties coping with challenges, and find it difficult to manage their daily stressors successfully.

It’s important to note that people may respond differently to stress, and what one person finds stressful may not affect another in the same way. Factors such as genetics, personality traits, past experiences, and resilience levels can influence how stress affects mental health on an individual level.

Effective stress management is crucial for maintaining good mental health. People who have healthy coping mechanisms and stress-management strategies are generally better equipped to handle stress and its potential impact on mental well-being. These strategies can include exercise, relaxation techniques, maintaining a support network, seeking the help of a health care professional, joining a stress management program, and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Overall, stress and mental health are deeply interconnected. While some stress is a normal part of life, excessive or chronic stress can have a detrimental impact on mental well-being. Managing stress effectively and seeking support when needed are essential for maintaining good mental health.


Stress-related mental illnesses, also known as stress-related disorders or stress-related psychiatric disorders, are a group of mental health conditions that are triggered or exacerbated by chronic stress.

These disorders arise when someone is unable to cope effectively with stressful situations. The most common stress-related mental illnesses are posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress disorder (ASD), adjustment disorders, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and major depressive disorder (MDD).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It is characterized by a range of symptoms like intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance behaviors, and heightened anxiety. These symptoms persist beyond the immediate aftermath of the traumatic event.

PTSD can affect people of all ages and can occur in response to various traumatic experiences, such as military combat, natural disasters, accidents, physical or sexual assault, or other life-threatening events.

Acute Stress Disorder

Acute Stress Disorder or ASD is similar to PTSD. ASD is a psychological condition that develops after experiencing a traumatic event. Symptoms include dissociation, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and avoidance. The difference is that ASD symptoms typically last for a shorter duration (3 days to 1 month) compared to PTSD.

ASD is considered a precursor to PTSD because if the symptoms persist for longer than a month, the diagnosis may change to PTSD.

Adjustment Disorders

Adjustment disorders are a group of psychological conditions characterized by a significant emotional or behavioral response to a stressful or life-changing event.

These events can be both positive, such as starting a new job or getting married, or negative, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or experiencing a traumatic event. These disorders occur when an individual has difficulty adjusting to a stressful life event. Symptoms may include depressed mood, anxiety, and impaired social or occupational functioning.

People with adjustment disorders typically experience an intense level of distress that is disproportionate to the event’s severity or intensity. The emotional and behavioral symptoms may occur within three months of the stressful event and last for a maximum of six months. However, if the stressor persists, the symptoms may persist as well.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD is a common mental health condition characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worrying about various aspects of life.

People with GAD often experience persistent anxiety and find it challenging to control their worry, even when there is no apparent reason for it. This anxiety can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating.


Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are intense episodes of overwhelming fear and discomfort that typically reach their peak within minutes. Panic attacks are often characterized by physical sensations such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, and chest pain.

People with panic disorder often worry about having future panic attacks and may make significant changes in their behavior to avoid situations that they believe may trigger an attack.


Major Depressive Disorder

While depression is not exclusively caused by stress, prolonged or intense stress can contribute to its development. Major depressive disorder or MDD is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide.

It’s important to note that these conditions can vary in severity and may require different forms of treatment, such as psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Seeking professional help from mental health practitioners is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate management of stress-related mental illnesses.


Protecting Your Mental Health: Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

Coping with stress is essential for protecting your mental health. Here are some strategies you can try:

Identify the source of stress: Determine what is causing your stress. It could be work, relationships, finances, or other factors. Understanding the source helps you address it more effectively.

Practice self-care: Take care of your physical and emotional well-being. Get regular exercise, eat a balanced diet, and ensure you get enough sleep. Engage in activities you enjoy and that help you relax, such as hobbies, reading, or spending time in nature.

Practice relaxation techniques: Techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness, or progressive muscle relaxation can help calm your mind and reduce stress. Incorporate these practices into your daily routine.

Maintain a support system: Reach out to friends, family, or a support group. Talking about your feelings and concerns with someone you trust can provide emotional support and perspective. Remember, you don’t have to face stress alone.

Set boundaries: Learn to say no when you feel overwhelmed. Establish boundaries to protect your time, energy, and mental well-being. Prioritize your needs and focus on what truly matters to you.

Manage your time effectively: Organize your tasks, set realistic goals, and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. Prioritize your responsibilities and delegate when possible. Having a clear plan can reduce stress and increase productivity.

Engage in healthy coping mechanisms: Avoid relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms like excessive alcohol or drug use. Instead, find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as engaging in physical activity, practicing hobbies, journaling, or seeking professional help if needed.

Practice positive thinking: Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive and realistic ones. Practice gratitude by focusing on the things you are thankful for in your life. Engaging in positive self-talk can help reduce stress levels.

Remember, coping with stress is a personal journey, and different techniques work for different individuals. Experiment with these strategies and find what works best for you.

If stress becomes overwhelming and begins to interfere with your daily life, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. They can provide guidance, support, and specialized strategies to cope with stress.


Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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