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The 4 types of stress

Mental health · Nov 10, 2020

Stress. We all experience it in different ways, and we all have different ways of managing it.

But despite stress being so common — 90 per cent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints1 — it can be surprisingly difficult to notice until it becomes a serious problem.

For some, stress shows up in eating habits. Others might experience aches and pains. And others may start to notice disturbed sleep. So how can we diagnose stress and start to treat it when it seems to hide out?

While some people have a high sense of self-awareness and are able to detect stress easily, it’s often not the case. When it comes to detecting stress, there are four common types that are typically diagnosed by healthcare professionals:

  1. Physical Stress: This is often the most obvious form of stress. It might present itself in the form of headaches or other aches and pains, or you might notice an increase in your heart rate. Other common signs include getting sick more often than usual, or noticing tension throughout your entire body.

  2. Mental Stress: This form of stress is also quite common, and fairly easy to recognize. Mental Stress often presents itself in the form of memory problems, an inability to concentrate, or anxiety.

  3. Behavioural Stress: This can be more difficult to self-diagnose. Behavioural stress is indicated by a change in your typical habits, such as food intake (eating more/less than usual), sleep patterns, isolating yourself from others or avoiding your typical responsibilities.

  4. Emotional Stress: This is another tough one to diagnose. When the body is experiencing stress emotionally, it tends to prepare its “fight or flight” response, which can manifest in sneaky ways. Signs of emotional stress can include an increase in agitation or moodiness.

I can tell I’m stressed — now what do I do?

First, applaud yourself for practicing active awareness and detecting the type of stress you’re experiencing.

If you’re noticing mental stress, you may benefit from practicing mindfulness to help you tune into your good-feeling thoughts and emotions. If your stress is physical, you may benefit from calming strategies like a body scan or box breathing. If you’re feeling too stressed to try any of these techniques — that’s OK too. Seeking support from a trusted friend, family member or medical professional is often the best place to start.

Our mental health team also offers an integrated, holistic approach to mental health, combining best-in-class services all under one roof.

No matter what stage of life you’re in, our friendly team of specialists is ready to help.


1 Robinson, J. 2017. “The effects of stress on your body.” Web MD.

Authored by:
Alicia Garside
TELUS Health Care Centres