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Stress - Definition, Symptoms & Causes

Stress is a reaction to an excessive pressure or demand and a worry about not being able to cope. It has become very common for people to speak of and suffer stress in relation to caring for a loved one, commuting, money, moving, relationships and work. In the UK, 16.7% of workers consider their jobs to be very or extremely stressful (HSE). For some people, stress is a socially acceptable mental health problem, for others, a product of contemporary life.


The symptoms of stress include crying, insomnia, irritability, isolation, lack of concentration, tension and tiredness. Stress is not simply a matter of a chemical release in the body - the fight or flight reaction to a stressful situation. Stress is related to being a human subject in a particular set of circumstances. Stress is said to be a good thing - it can help people achieve their goals. But too much stress can trigger anxiety and depression and affect physical health.


The causes of stress include difficulty coping, too much to do, too much pressure, too much responsibility, worrying about the future, or no immediately apparent cause at all. A situation that one person experiences as stressful may not be stressful to someone else.

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Updated 04 July 2011