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The 3 Types of Stress (and Their Effects)


February 26, 2019 | Published by

The number of stressors we have and our ability to cope with them can drastically change our quality of life. Today we’ll look at the different kinds of stress and what to look out for when they arise, as well as tips for prevention and recovery.

Acute Stress

Acute stress is the most common type of stress. It’s the type of stress you typically feel on a daily basis. Anxiety regarding an upcoming test at school, short-term fallout due to an altercation with a loved one, and irritation while stuck in a traffic jam are all examples of acute stress.

This type of stress can even be exciting in smaller doses. The surge of panic and fear before skydiving can turn into exhilaration, but this excitement wears off once panic and fear become repetitious, and soon you’ll find yourself living with stress.

The good thing about acute stress is that it’s recognizable and doesn’t typically cause any sort of permanent damage. Short-term effects of acute stress include:

  • Hyperarousal such as rapid heartbeat and pulse, sweaty palms, elevated blood pressure, cold hands or feet, migraine headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sleep problems, and chest pain
  • Temporary stomach, gut, and bowel problems like heartburn, flatulence, diarrhea, and constipation
  • A short-term combination of irritability and anger or anxiety and depression

Episodic Acute Stress

Episodic acute stress occurs when acute stress begins to repeat or pile up. Several months in a row of not being able to catch up on bills, a relationship ending followed by the loss of a job, and prolonged overloads at work are examples of this type of stress.

Episodic acute stress also occurs more frequently in people with Type A personalities. People considered Type A are typically more aggressive, impatient, abrupt, and have an excessive competitive drive within them. Due to these personality traits, episodic stress occurs more naturally to people with Type A personalities.

Although this type of stress is like acute stress, the prolonged stressors that come with episodic acute stress have lasting effects such as:

  • Muscle issues such as tension, headache, back and jaw pain, pulled muscles and tendons, as well as ligament problems
  • Anxiety and depression; anger or irritability; being short-tempered, tense, and impatient
  • A compromised immune system leading to frequent and prolonged periods of illness
  • The deterioration of relationships within the workplace, home, or family
  • Compromised attention, more difficulty processing thoughts, and mental fatigue

Chronic Stress

Of the three types of stress, chronic stress is the most likely to cause long-term or permanent damage. If left untreated, chronic stress can cause irreversible damage to your physical health and degrade mental health as well.

Chronic stress occurs when one feels they’re trapped in a situation without the possibility of escaping. Living in poverty, a dysfunctional marriage, dealing with long-term diseases, and drug addictions are examples of chronic stress. Chronic stress can also stem from traumatic experiences and childhood trauma.

While chronic stress can be overcome, it’s often a slow road to recovery that may need medical attention. Some results of chronic stress include:

  • Death through suicide, stroke, and heart attack
  • Long-term depression and feelings of hopelessness
  • Permanent damage to parts of brain such as the prefrontal cortex and limbic system
  • Development of cancer, diabetes, autoimmune syndromes and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders, cardiovascular dysfunctions

If you feel that stressors have become too much to handle, be sure seek medical attention. Keep this in mind: no matter what kind of stress you suffer from, there is a way out.

Recognizing the situation that you’re in and taking the appropriate actions to put yourself on the right path may sometimes seem impossible but is something you can accomplish if taken slowly. Even small changes like improving your diet and exercise routine might be just what you need to gain the confidence that you can pull yourself out of a seemingly hopeful situation.


Freshwater, S. 3 Types of Stress and Health Hazards. Spacious Therapy.

Mariotti, A. The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication. NCBI.

Stress: The different kinds of stress. American Psychological Association.

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