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Stress in a Broad Perspective - More Than Merely a Mental Illness!!

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Stress in a Broad Perspective - More Than Merely a Mental Illness!!

5 min read


Stress is not always due to mental (psychiatric) illnesses. Physical wellness also counts for stress levels in modern life.

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At September 7, 2015
Reviewed AtMarch 15, 2023

What Do You Think Is Stress in Your Daily Life?

Stress is not just a mental illness. It is not merely a disease of your brain and does not always mean that you have a serious psychiatric disorder. It is a multifactorial disorder including general physical wellness, issues related to chronic diseases, and is very well researched and perfectly-being treated in internal medicine.

Many people feel stress as only a psychiatric illness, and because it is sometimes taken as a stigma if you go for a psychiatric evaluation, a huge number of patients remain undiagnosed and untreated for years. The new clinical approach introduced by modern science is to spread awareness amongst masses that stress has many aspects, and they should be encouraged to discuss the problems freely with their Primary Care Provider (PCP). He will screen the patient, and if needed, he may also refer the patient to an appropriate psychiatrist. But a major bulk of patients get counseling and proper treatment right by their PCP, and it also lessens the workload of mental illness hospitals and psychiatrists.

Most of us take stress as a part of our daily life and have become used to stress so much that we do not even know that we are sick. Chronic stress makes our inner self hollow by damaging our personality and soul. Stress has two forms:

Healthy Stress:

It is a positive and sparkling constituent needed to excel in life. If somebody has it, he is actually healthy. But the problem is when somebody loses this stress, it is the same as he has lost his self-respect and he is no more himself. To get this concept, I usually put an example to my patients:

Think of a student who has his final examination after one month, and he has no worries regarding that and is not preparing for that too. Now he is sick, actually. He should have 'healthy' examination stress enough to make him motivated to prepare for the examination.

Unhealthy Stress:

This is damaging, unnecessary, and devastating stress and makes us sick over time if not properly handled. This can be handled if it is diagnosed in the very beginning and the cause of stress is treated timely. Regular visits to your Primary Care Physician are necessary to keep things under control and get yourself screened for stress.

How Stressed Are You?

This is a very difficult question, and even a learned person cannot make up with a proper answer. I have devised a questionnaire for my patients, and they have to check the stresses they have in their life. When they take this filled-out questionnaire back to me, it makes the picture clear. Catharsis is the best way to take the fears out of our inner self and to diagnose how stressed we actually are. This questionnaire form below fulfills this purpose perfectly. You just have to read and mark against the one which applies to you right now. For your ease, I have put them into groups so that you may have a clear picture of how much stress you have from each mentioned category.

Test Your Brain or Mental Wellness:

  • Do you have problems with concentrating on important tasks of everyday life?

  • Do you have difficulty making life's important decisions easily without the help of others?

  • Do you think your life is of no worth?

  • Are you anxious mostly and have a flight of thoughts?

  • Are you a person who remains worried most of the time?

Test Your Emotional Wellness:

  • How is your mood most of the time? Do you lose temperament with just a simple ignition of something that happened around you, for example: Do you get irritable just with the simple mistake of someone at road traffic, no matter if it never was going to hurt you?

  • Can you relax whenever you have some time to do so?

  • Do you have control over your anger?

  • Do you think your life tasks have ended and there is nothing left to do anymore?

  • Do you feel you are lonely and/or do you like to remain lonely?

  • Have you felt depressed most of the time and almost never happy? Is there some worth of happiness in your life?

Wellness and Your Behavior:

  • Do you eat perfectly, not more or less?

  • How normal is your sleep, not more or less?

  • Do you feel happy while you are with others?

  • Are you willing and ready to take on the responsibilities of life?

  • Do you need to take the support of illicit drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes to relax?

  • How social are you?

Physical Wellness of the Body:

  • Do you have pains in most parts of the body?

  • Do you have chronic or acute diabetes, hypertension, thyroid, liver, or kidney disease?

  • Do you have gastrointestinal system issues like diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, stomach acidity, and heartburn?

  • Do you have asthma, COPD, or any other lung disorder?

  • Do you feel nauseated, dizzy, and have vertigo and loss of balance?

  • Do you have a loss of libido (sex drive)?

  • Do you have some issues with your vision?

  • Have you been diagnosed with migraines?

  • Do you get colds, flu, allergies, red and itchy eyes very easily?

  • Pain in the chest, irregular heartbeats, and/or can you feel your own heartbeats. Do you have a known cardiac issue?

The following are stress-related disorders, they are,

  1. Acute stress reaction.

  2. Adjustment disorder.

  3. Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Acute Stress Disorder:

Following a stressful event, such as a serious medical diagnosis or a major accident, some people develop a characteristic pattern of symptoms. These include,

  1. A sense of bewilderment.

  2. Anxiety.

  3. Anger.

  4. Depression.

  5. Altered activity.

  6. Withdrawal activity.

The symptoms are transient and usually resolve completely within a few days.

Adjustment Disorder:

A more common psychological response to a major stressor is a less severe but more prolonged emotional reaction. The predominant symptom is usually depression or anxiety, which is insufficiently persistent to merit a depressive or anxiety disorder diagnosis. There may also be anger, aggressive behavior, and associated excessive alcohol use. Symptoms develop within a month of the onset of the stress, and their duration and severity reflect the course of an underlying stressor.

Grief reactions are a particular type of adjustment disorder. They manifest as a brief period of emotional numbing, followed by a period of distress lasting several weeks, during which sorrow, tearfulness, sleep disturbances, loss of interest, and a sense of futility are common. Perceptual distortions may occur, including misinterpreting sounds as the dead person’s voice.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

It is a protracted response to a stressful event of an exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature. Examples of such events are,

  • Natural disasters.

  • Terrorist activity.

  • Serious accidents.

  • Witnessing violent deaths.

It may also occur after a distressing medical treatment. There is usually a delay ranging from a few days to several months between the traumatic event and the onset of symptoms. Typical symptoms are,

  • Recurrent intrusive memories of trauma (flashbacks).

  • Sleep disturbance.

  • Nightmares (usually traumatic events).

  • The patient awakes with anxiety.

  • Emotional blunting.

  • Symptoms of autonomic arousal.

  • Anxiety.

  • Depression.

Excessive use of alcohol and other drugs complicates the situation. The condition runs as a fluctuating course, with most patients recovering within 2 years. In a small proportion, the symptoms become chronic.

How Is Stress Managed?

  • Ongoing contact with and support from a doctor or other who can listen, reassure, explain and advise are often all that is needed.

  • Most patients do not require psychotropic medication, although benzodiazepines reduce arousal in acute stress reactions and can aid sleep in adjustment disorders.

  • Psychotherapy may be useful for patients with abnormal grief reactions.

  • Immediate counseling is needed for those who have survived a major trauma.

  • Counseling is important for people to overcome stress because it aims to provide,

  1. Support.

  2. Direct advice.

  3. Opportunity for emotional catharsis.

  • For people with post-traumatic stress disorder, structured psychological approaches are required, such as,

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy.

  2. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

  3. Stress management.

  • Antidepressant drugs are moderately effective.


If you have two or more of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is high time to get yourself checked by your PCP as there may be a serious medical illness or chronic disease disturbing your life routine and making you feel sick and stressed all the time.

Frequently Asked Questions


Are Stress and Illness Related?

Chronic stress can depress the immune system of a person. When the immune system is weakened, the person is at a higher risk of developing an illness. On the contrary, short or acute stress can boost the immune system of a person. Therefore, stress and the immune system are related to each other.


How Is Mental Illness Classified?

Mental illness is broadly classified into two categories, any mental illness (AMI) and serious mental illness (SMI). AMI is defined as the change in the mental, behavioral or emotional nature of a person and it does not cause changes in overall livelihood. SMI on the other hand affects the day-to-day activities of a person.


Can Stress Be Classified as Mental Illness?

Stress is not directly classified as a mental illness. Stress, if chronic, can give rise to other mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. Stress can also worsen other existing mental disorders.


What Are the Most Commonly Occurring Mental Conditions?

The most commonly occurring mental conditions include: 
- Depression.
- Panic disorder.
- Anxiety disorder.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).


Does Stress Affect a Persons' Mental Health?

Yes, chronic stress can affect a person's mental health. Stress can lead to mental conditions such as anxiety and depression. It may cause disturbances in the sleep pattern to a large extent. It may also present with bodily symptoms such as muscle tension and body aches.


Does Stress Cause Health Issues?

Yes, stress can cause health issues such as:
- Blood pressure.
- Cardiovascular problems.
- Digestive disturbances.
- Breathing difficulties.


How Do You Know if Your Stress Levels Are Too Much?

Stress levels can be counted as too much if it starts showing out as physical symptoms. Stress may manifest as body pain, muscle tension, and constant headaches. In severe cases, it may mimic the symptoms of a heart attack or breathlessness.  


Which Mental Illness Is Easily Treatable?

Depression is the most easily treatable mental illness. Most cases of depression respond well to medication and other forms of treatment. Also, there is a wide array of treatments available to treat conditions like depression.


Can You Recover From Mental Illness Completely?

Any mental illness cannot be cured. It has to be effectively managed. Medical sciences just do that. A trained mental health professional can help an individual look for their own ways to help deal with various mental conditions. Sometimes, medications can be used in adjunct to this.


What Happens if Mental Conditions Are Left Untreated?

Mental conditions, if left untreated can cause serious complications. The complications can range from various other mental to physical disabilities. It can hamper the day-to-day activities of a person.
Dr. Muhammad Majid Hanif
Dr. Muhammad Majid Hanif



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