Types and Stages of Stress

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 10: Stress Management

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4


Types of Stress

Stress can affect an individual in both the ways: negatively as well as positively. 

Eustress or Positive stress

Eustress is the word consisting of two parts. The prefix is derived from the Greek ‘eu’ meaning either ‘well or good’. It’s the short-lived, motivating kind of stress that helps intent us to prepare for a test, a sporting competition or other challenge. Eustress is perceived as within our coping abilities and leads to achievement and excellence. Some examples of eustress are:

  • Meeting or engaging in a challenge
  • Coming first in a race
  • Getting a promotion at your job
  • Watching a suspense or horror movie
  • Love, marriage or childbirth
  • Riding a roller coaster
  • The holidays
  • Purchasing something

Distress or Negative stress

It’s the longer term, anxiety-ridden kind of stress. It results when a person is unable to completely adapt to stressors. It is felt when the feelings of insecurity, helplessness and depression are felt due to pressure and tension. People under constant distress are more likely to become sick, mentally or physically. Some examples of eustress are:

  • Difficult work environment 
  • Threat of personal injury
  • Work under constant pressure.

Stages of Stress

Hans Selye (1976) put forward the general adaptation syndrome model of stress, which recognized three phases in the stress response:

  1. The alarm reaction
  2. The stage of resistance
  3. The stage of exhaustion

These three phases illustrate the physiological response to stress. The body is alerted – the alarm reaction; autonomic activity is triggered – resistance; and if this activity goes on too long, damage is done and collapse occurs – exhaustion.

1. Alarm reaction

It is the immediate reaction to a stressor. When a person experiences a shock or perceives a threat, he quickly releases hormones that help him to survive. Human exhibit a “fight or flight” response.

2. State of resistance

It is a stage of maximum adaptation. Body adapts to the stressors it is exposed to. Changes at many levels take place in order to reduce the effect of the stressor. This phase lasts for as long as the person can support this heightened resistance.

3. Stage of exhaustion

If the stress has continued for some time, body’s resistance to the stress may gradually be reduced or may collapse quickly. The immune system and the body’s ability to resist disease may be almost totally eliminated. 

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

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