Key Theories of Stress and Health


Key Theories of Stress and Health


Introduction of Stress and Health

An event which causes mental tension which is entirely caused due to physical, mental or emotional response is known as Stress. It can also be defined as a response of the body with uncertainty to the demand made on it. Stress has some positives and negatives as well such as sometimes it helps us to express feelings and show talent and energy which help us to accomplish happiness, while sometimes it can be harmful to us and become the base to our illness and turn down your strength. In a broader sense we can say it comprises of the following two classified forms; Eustress (Positive Stress) and Distress (Negative Stress). (What is stress, n.d)

Stress as mentioned above can actually help us in our life, which acts as a force behind us pushing us to perform even better and to produce results better than expected by the others or even by themselves. Then again if stress can be beneficial to humans it can cause illness and side effects as well which can cause severe problems. This generally is called distress. Stress is generally caused by external influences such as a sudden death, disaster, a tragic incident which humans have no control over which can be relating to our family or even from the outside world such as media. It can be viewed in three parts such as stimulus, response and process. In stimulus the main source of stress is evident from catastrophic events, such as tornadoes and earthquakes, major events in life and chronic circumstances which mean living in such a place where a commercial market, which is always surrounded by noise. By response stress is caused when a person reacts to certain circumstances such as sitting in an examination, where heart pounds and you feel your throat dry or emotions or nervousness. Stress is more over seen as a process rather than stimulus or response. It is generally a process when a series of adjustments and interactions between the person and the environment takes place. So generally stress is a process when the individual due to the environment gets awareness of some sort of discrepancy to meet the demands of the situation. (What is stress, n.d)

Health is mainly a state where a person is completely physically, mentally and socially in well mannered which does not entirely mean absence of disease. Health holds very much significance in every individual’s life but still many individuals don’t give importance to it and neglect it. Such individuals who ignore health and their significance in life are enemies of themselves as ignorance of good health is individual’s greatest enemy. Individual to live a healthy life should be aware of their health and live a life which is balanced in all key parts of life. Health can also act as a driving force and the purpose is to define destiny. For example if an individual is in a good state of health then it is our choice and our purpose is to make this as our destiny. We should treat life as a gift which is precious than anything else in this world as it’s been said, Life is a gift, health is not. How we maintain this gift nature has given us is depending on us and what level of health we hold can be seen as a marker as to how we have taken care of this gift of life. Health generally changes and adapts different atmosphere’s which is a constant process. It changes and adapts environments both internal and external and mainly depend on us how to take this process smoothly and in an equilibrium manner. Every individual goes through a constant process of transformation, which is a lifetime event and every individual has to accept that and understand as to how they can take this life time process at a constant pace. In short we can say that to maintain our health for a lifetime we have constantly review our health conditions and based on that we should try to make it follow a horizontal path. (Jeff, 2008)






Types of Stress

There are different terms used in stress such as below:

1. Physical:

In such type of stress individual can feel the pain all over his body and this pain varies from its symptoms and can be very harmful for the individual itself. Most commonly in this type individual suffers from headaches which causes pain in neck, forehead and shoulder muscles. If the same problem persists for a longer period of time then it can lead to certain problems which include ulcers, fatigue, high blood pressure, and excessive sweating, heart diseases and many more. People in this kind are stressed cause of work overload, taking too many responsibilities, disorganized and never on time.

2. Emotional:

Such type of a process includes responses which occur due to mind affection, anger, anxiety or depression and lack of concentration for any task being handed over to them or is under their management. Such affects are caused in response to loss, failure, frustration, or social stress by which individual’s life can be in danger if it is not regularly monitored. Sudden upset can be caused when an individual’s close relative or family member suffers from illness or passes by, which can lead to depression.

3. Psychological:

Stress resulting in a prolonged stress which can exist for weeks, months or even years. In this kind of stress people withdraw from the society, eating disorders or night terrors. Such type is known as psychological stress which can lead to serious medical conditions for the individual.

Nowadays four major types of stress; Eustress, Distress, Hyper stress and Hypo stress:

1. Eustress:

This kind of stress is one of the most helpful one. It is such kind of a stress which enables you to work exerting a force and prepares your muscles, heart, and mind for the strength required for whatsoever circumstances the individual is about to face. It is also applied to individuals who require some creativity and energy to inspire them to work and get them what they need. An example of such kind of stress can be taken from an athlete who needs inspiration before a big game or when entering a competition so as to be mentally and physically prepared, and because of such stress they experience strength power to work with willingness and zeal. Normally after the event for which Eustress was experienced by the individual comes back to normal level.

2. Distress:

This is a negative type of stress which undergoes stress when the daily routine has been adjusted by which the mind is not comfortable with and has to alter his routine so as to overcome such stress. In this type two types of distress are found; acute stress and chronic stress. In acute stress body feels stressed as soon as it encounters a change in its routine, but such type of stress passes out quickly. Chronic stress is such when the body undergoes change in every coming week and the body is stressed for a longer period. Such type of stress is felt by those individuals who constantly experience job changes or moves. (Major types of stress, 2009)

3. Hyper stress:

Such a stress which individual encounters when he can not undertake or undergoes tasks more than his body can handle, is known as hyper stress. Also an individual can go through this type of distress when he is being overworked. With these kinds of stress an individual can react with emotional outbreaks even if he is experiencing a lesser stress than work overload. Individuals experiencing such kind of stress have to take necessary measures so as to reduce risks because such stress can lead to serious emotional and physical repercussions.

4. Hypo stress:

The final type of stress is known as hypo stress which is in complete opposite to that of hyper stress. It is generally caused when an individual is constantly doing some work for an unlimited time or period and after that his concentration to perform the work gets affected. Such individual gets bored of doing the same thing/work all over again and again. Perfect example of such kind of a stress can be a worker in a factory which performs a task designated to him all over again and again, until and unless he finds some alternative way of doing that work which may be of his interest. For such individuals who suffer from hypo stress feel restlessness or a lack of inspiration in doing their assigned work. (How to deal with stress, 2009)

Stress and Health

Obviously both the terms stress and health are very much closely related to each other. It is a known fact that stress is a disorder that will definitely harm the body and health and it is not beneficial for the human body to take stress. Stress affects the health of the human body and if it is not controlled that it may also lead to the risky and serious mental disorders or problems. It is not that any particular kind of stress is harmful for the health but stress whether is slow or quick will affect the health slowly or can affect the health rapidly. There are many ways in which the stress can affect the health like it can cause a number of different problems and diseases such as tension, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, muscle cramps, dizzy spells, immune related problems, high blood pressure, asthma, migraines, backaches and so on. All these problems some times seem to be very small health problems but these can some times lead to very much chronic health diseases. If such diseases are not controlled then after some time these problems can also affect the heart, brain and also the immune system of the human body. (Stress and health, n.d)

Key Theories of Stress

There are many theories that have been developed for understanding and dealing with stress and many other problems that are related with stress. These theories were divided in to three categories in the year 1995 by Brantley and Thomason. These three categories are response theories, stimulus theories and interaction or transaction theories.

·         Response Theories

It is a fact that the responses of unrelieved stress contain some involvement of some physiological changes to the system of the body and also to the organs of the body. A great deal of concern has been given to the physiological responses that are given after the chronic stress and also an observation has been made that how these responses are caused. Walter Cannon and Hans Selye have paid attention in this regard and have proposed theories for this. (Davidyan, 2008)

Walter Cannon’s Work
The word homeostasis was first used by the by the physiologist at Harvard university known as Walter Cannon. According to Cannon, the body of a human is having an internal system that is being used to maintain the equilibrium of the body and also the various functions of the body. If the surroundings of the person are providing him with the various challenges then obviously the body should give response to every different situation and this is done by making changes in different physiological systems in order to compensate for the resources being used. These responses are basically responsible for maintaining the homeostasis and when the human body is not able to respond to these changes in the surroundings and also unable to maintain the homeostasis then it will end up in damaging the organs and can even cause death. In short we can say that the homeostasis is a very much useful concept in defining that how sensitive physiological stress responses to risk of survival can result in chronic stress responses. (Stress- the psychology of stress management, n.d)

The Work of Hans Selye
Hans Selye used the terminology of stress in order to define the problems that were linked with the homeostasis as defines by the Cannon. He gave forward the effects that can be caused over any organ. According to him the stress responses given by the organism were a general set of physiological responses and these responses were a result of environmental changes that were faced by different organisms. The changes may include change of temperature or exposure to the temperature and so on. A large amount of energy was needed by these responses and the human body is some times not able to keep up with it.  (Gabriel, 2009)

The work of Bruce McEwen
After the work of Cannon and Selye the growing of chronic physiological stress responses in to the chronic stress responses was again revised by the student of Rockefeller University, Bruce McEwen. The term allostasis was first used by McEwen and it was related to the ability of a body to deal with the changes that are occurring in the environment. According to him the any organ that is having a maintained physiological equilibrium in the condition of stress can prove itself to be as problematic as any other organ that is not in its equilibrium while the stress and is giving a physiological response. Allostasis meant to keep the body in a very stable and steady state during the changes in the environment. There is a difference between the term homeostasis and allostasis so both of them should never be mixed up. The stress can activate our adaptive responses; this was a thought given by McEwen. Stress is a problem that can end up in several other problems like pre aging, depressions, heart failure and so on. The stress is a problem that can affect any part of the human body. There are many ways by which the stress should be avoided and if not avoided then it should be handled properly. (Krahn, 1999)

These response theories have helped a lot in understanding and handling the concept of stress and also in finding out the ways to help it. The relation between the environmental changes and the organisms of the human body are explored in these theories.

·         Stimulus Theories

Many of the researchers have taken the terminology stress as a stimulus. Holmes and Rahe were the two prominent researchers who worked over this approach. They prepared a list of common or can be said major events of the life known as Social Readjustment Rating Scale. They sued many different changes and events that can take place in the life of a person and then rated these events from the most stressful to the least stressful. Each of the events was also given a life change unit score and that was given depending on the seriousness of the event. They basically tried to develop a relationship between the stressful events and the possible disorders that can be caused by these events. Another work over the stimulus theory was done by Elliot and Eisendorfer and they basically made differences between different types of events that can cause stress. They also worked over the stressor sequences that contained the different stress that can be caused as a result of some other stress. (Davidyan, 2008)

·         Interaction or Transaction Theories

The modern concept of stress is mostly taken as interactive or transaction; according to their nature. According to these theories the importance should be given to both the stress events and the stress responses. These theories also explain the link and relation between the kind of stress and the problems that can be caused by this stress. (Davidyan, 2008)


In the end, it should be concluded that whatever is the type of the stress; it is very much dangerous for health. The stress can cause many small problems that can lead to the serious and chronic diseases. Nowadays many stress handling techniques and management theories have been devised and they are also proving themselves to be very much effective so stress is a problem that should never be neglected and should be treated as soon as it attacks a person.










Alexander Davidyan, Theories of stress- Models of stress theories of stress (2008) Accessed February 9, 2009


Alexander Davidyan, Theories of stress- Models of stress theories of stress (2008) Accessed February 9, 2009


Alexander Davidyan, Theories of stress- Models of stress theories of stress (2008)> Accessed February 9, 2009


Dean Krahn, Article: The response to stress- by Bruce McEwen, Ph.D and Dean Krahn, M.D (1999) Accessed February 9, 2009


Dr. Jeff, How do we define health? By Dr Jeff (2008) Accessed February 9, 2009


Gerald Gabriel, Hans Selye and the discovery of stress (2009) Accessed February 9, 2009

How to deal with stress (2009) Accessed February 9, 2009


Major types of stress (2009) Accessed February 9, 2009


Stress and health (no date) Accessed February 9, 2009


Stress- the psychology of stress management (no date) Accessed February 9, 2009


What is stress? (no date) Accessed February 9, 2009

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