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What Are Common Causes of Stress?

by Eve Lopez
  • Overview

    Stress is an emotional and physical reaction to life's pressures. Stress is also a highly personal reaction - what "stresses out" one person might have no effect on another. Stress is a normal part of life, but excessive stress can cause anxiety, depression and other serious health problems; it has been linked to high blood pressure and a lowered immune system. Common causes of stress are workplace stress, financial problems and relationship/family problems. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that 73 percent of Americans say money is their number-one stress factor. The ability to properly cope with stress is known as "stress management," and there are many techniques that may help ease stress. The APA divides stress into three different categories: acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress.
    What Are Common Causes of Stress?
    What Are Common Causes of Stress?
  • Acute Stress

    The most common form of stress is acute stress; it is very fleeting. Examples of acute stress are looming deadlines, a car accident, a family crisis or a personal failure. Everyone suffers from acute stress some time in their life. Acute stress can manifest itself in the following ways: elevated heartbeat, perspiration and/or headache.
  • Episodic Acute Stress

    Episodic acute stress occurs in people whose lives are in a content state of upheaval. They may describe themselves as having "a lot of nervous energy." A Type A personality is prone to episodic acute stress; people who are very aggressive and competitive in nature are at risk for higher levels of stress. The following are symptoms of episodic acute stress: persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain and heart disease.
  • Chronic Stress

    Chronic stress is the worst kind there is: it is a persistent, long-term stress. Typical causes of chronic stress are poverty, a dysfunctional family, being trapped in an unhappy marriage and having a job that one hates. The APA suggests that chronic stress may be rooted in a childhood trauma that was never fully resolved. Chronic stress is deadly; it can kill through suicide, heart attacks and strokes.
  • Stress Management

    Although circumstances beyond anyone's control mean that no one will live a stress-free life, there are many coping mechanisms for dealing with stress. The Mayo Clinic recommends meditation, yoga and exercise as successful stress-fighting techniques. Other stress relievers include taking deep breaths, taking frequent breaks during work and taking "time outs" during stressful situations. Exercise has, in particular, been shown to be an ideal stress management technique.
  • Medication for Stress

    If stress is overwhelming, it might be time to visit a mental health professional who may prescribe sedatives, antianxiety medication or antidepressants. Typical medications used to fight stress are benzodiazepines (including Valium, Xanax and Ativan); Buproprion; SSRIs (including Paxil, Prozac and Lexapro); beta-blockers; and herbal remedies (including kava, valerian, skullcap and chamomile). Benzodiazepines are generally useful only for short-term use and may be habit-forming.

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