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Overview of stress

Stressed man at deskMany people use the word stress when the demands of their life seem to be too much to cope with. Everyone copes differently. What one person finds stressful may not be a problem for someone else.

Most of us have symptoms of stress at some stage. Overcoming challenges is just part of life. But long-term stress is bad for our health and most of us want to get some control over it.

Sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between stress and anxiety. They have similar symptoms. With stress, most people can work out what's causing it. But anxiety often affects all aspects of your life without an obvious cause.


Different people have different symptoms, but there are three broad types.

Physical symptoms

Stress can make our body react in ways we can't control.

Emotional symptoms

When we're stressed we often have upsetting feelings or thoughts that we can't control. Emotional symptoms can include things like:

Behavioural symptoms

When we're stressed, we can start acting in ways we know are harmful but feel that we can't control our behaviour.

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On the next page: Causes of stress

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2020.


See also:

Anxiety in adults

Page reference: 111510

Review key: HISTS-111503