Definition and Characteristics of Stress

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 10: Stress Management

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4


Definition of Stress

Stress is the feeling that we experience when we believe we cannot cope effectively with a situation. Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them. Many people think that “tension” and “pressure” are the other words for stress. There is a clear distinction between pressure, which can create a ‘buzz’ and be a motivating factor, and stress, which can occur when this pressure becomes excessive. 

It indicates the pressures people feel in life. People who are stressed may become nervous, easily provoked to anger and are unable to relax. They may be uncooperative or use alcohol excessively. Stress also leads to physical disorders because the internal body system changes to try to cope with stress. Some physical disorders are stomach ulcer, heart diseases, kidney troubles, etc. any job condition can cause stress, depending upon an employee’s reaction to it. 

Some psychologists defined stress as:

Hens Selye (1979) – “Stress refers to nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it.”

Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman (1984) – stress can be thought of as resulting from an “imbalance between demands and resources” or as occurring when “pressure exceeds one’s perceived ability to cope”.

Baron (1992) defined stress as “Stress is many faceted processes that occurs in s in response to events that disrupt or threaten to disrupt our physical or psychological functioning.”

Cooper & Palmer, Conquer Your Stress, (2000) – “Stress occurs when perceived pressure exceeds your ability to cope”

Health and Safety Executive, Raymond (2000), ‘Stress the Real millennium Bug’ – “[Stress is] the reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed upon them. It arises when they worry that they cannot cope”

The most commonly accepted definition of stress (by Richard S Lazarus) is that “stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize”.

Characteristics of Stress

  1. It is a multi faceted process that is a response to stressor done after its evaluation. 
  2. It is a common notion that stress arises from negative or painful events only but the truth is that stress arise from some positive events also, like getting promotions. 
  3. The conditions or events that arises stress are out of control of an individual. If somehow the conditions are controlled by the person then stress reduces.
  4. In stress an individual feels both psychological and physical disturbances. 
  5. Stress can eliminate after some time or can persist for long time. The time duration of stress depends on the nature of situation or event that creates stress. 

An interesting feature of stress is the wide range of physical and psychological reactions that different people have to the same event, some may interpret an event as stressful, whereas others simply take it in stride. Moreover, a particular person may react quire differently to the same stressor at different points of time.

A recent report by the National Association of Mental Health distinguishes between stress and pressure, where pressure can be defined as a subjective feeling of tension or arousal that is triggered by a potentially stressful situation. However, where pressure exceeds an individual’s ability to cope, the result is stress.

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

Please Share:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top