By David Baldwin, PhD

What is Stress?

Stress happens to everyone. It's part of life.

Some stress can be challenging and actually helpful -- pushing us to reach beyond usual limits. That's good. But too much stress (or too many stressors) -- stress that happens all at once, or seems to never let up -- can lead to both physical and mental disorders.

People often discount the stressful nature of good changes, and admit feeling stressed only when things are going badly. Actually, both good and bad changes can be stressful. For example, being promoted to a more demanding job is stressful. So is getting married.

Some Stressful Experiences:

Today, stress and stress related disorders are common in this country. Many people who visit physicians for physical complaints also suffer from stress induced mental and emotional symptoms.

Common stress reactions, and what to do about them, are the focus of this brochure.

Stress Symptoms:

Severe traumatic events can produce Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Too much non-traumatic stress, for too long, will usually produce internal tension that may appear as symptoms of either anxiety or depression.

fear that something bad will happen
nervousness or worry
can't relax or slow down; impatience
feeling helpless, hopeless or despair
disrupted sleep, lethargy
loss of concentration, poor memory

Some people try to self-medicate these unpleasant feelings with alcohol or drugs. In the long run, this makes things worse.

If several symptoms from either category persist over time, or if you notice yourself using alcohol or drugs to escape from stress, you may need to seek help from a professional therapist.

Things you can do to lessen Stress:

If you feel stressed-out, have tried to moderate your level of stress, and still experience stress related symptoms, seek help from a professional therapist.

Deciding to Seek Help:

The prognosis for therapy of disorders caused by stress is very good.

Brief therapy is often an effective therapeutic approach.

Stress is a major cause of injury and lost productivity at work: Job stress in the U.S. costs $200 billion per year in worker's compensation claims, absenteeism, extra health insurance costs, and direct medical bills.
-- From a report by the United Nations International Labor Organization.

If you know someone who is stressed and needs help:


July 1993