Psychological Stress: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

psychological stress

Maybe you are going through some relationship problems with your spouse or family member, or your work is too demanding. If you are in any difficult situation in your life, you may be experiencing stress daily.

Although minimal day-to-day stress is usual and can motivate you to do better, overwhelming stress can cause harm to your emotional, physical, and mental health. You might think that your decreased productivity, insomnia, or irritating headache is nothing severe but may be a result of too much stress.

Have you witnessed or experienced a tragic event in your life, such as an accident, natural disaster, or seen someone die? If so, you might have developed PTSD and adrenal fatigue. Most people with post-traumatic stress disorder turn to things like alcohol, drugs, and other unhealthy habits to avoid responding to major or even minor stressors.

What is Stress?

It is the response your body gives to something that needs action or attention and may cause emotional or physical strain. You can quickly identify negative stress, but there is also good stress, also known as eustress.

Good stress helps you focus, be energetic and perform better; some people believe it is exciting. On the other hand, bad stress causes anxiety and can lead to severe conditions if not managed sooner.

How you respond to stress makes a difference to your mental and physical health. The best way to combat stress is to change the situation. If it’s not possible, change how you respond to whatever is stressing you.

Understanding psychological stress, symptoms, causes, treatment, and diagnosis is essential. It’s the first step to your healing journey.

Signs and symptoms of psychological stress

Everyone experiences some level of stress daily, either from jobs, finances, or relationships.

While dealing with the daily stressors or chronic stress from negative situations like divorce and illness, you may be affected emotionally and physically.

How can you tell that you are experiencing unhealthy stress levels? Effects of Stress are somehow unique for everyone, but some are common. Such as;

Irritating headaches

If you are dealing with pressure, pain, and tightness at the back of your head or around the forehead, you’re probably stressed to the core. Tension/ stress headache feels like something is squeezing your skull. It’s common among adults.

There are two types of tension headaches. You have an episodic headache if you are experiencing the pain for less than 15 days monthly and a chronic tension headache if the pain recurs for more than fifteen days every month.

These irritating headaches can last for approximately 30 minutes or several days. The pain comes and goes, starts strong, and may ease up in the day. You will likely carry on with your daily activities since the headaches don’t affect your strength, vision, and balance.


If you are struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, then you probably have a sleep disorder. Individuals with insomnia wake up early and feel tired, sleepy, and irritated during the day. This condition can affect your work performance and health.

Acute insomnia lasts for days or weeks, while chronic insomnia lasts for months. A traumatic event or constant stress can cause these conditions.

Frequent flu and cold

With chronic stress, your immune system is not strong enough to fight antigens. For this reason, your body is prone to infections. Corticosteroid, the stress hormone, weakens your immune system, for instance, by lowering the levels of lymphocytes.

Low immunity means that you will suffer from frequent colds and flu to more severe health conditions.


Anxiety is a common sign of stress, and it’s your reaction to a stressful situation. If you feel anxious now and then, it may be because you are dealing with too many stressors. If not managed early, anxiety can lead to anxiety disorder. Talk to your doctor as soon as you can.

Frustration and irritability

Frustration is a familiar feeling that probably everyone has experienced at some point in their life. However, if its long term, then it’s a sure symptom of stress. You may feel irritation and anger when you fail to achieve your goals.

The feeling of frustration affects your happiness and relationships. The sooner you eliminate the psychological stress, the better.

Brain fog

It’s normal to experience brain fog when you are stressed. Your emotions and thoughts may not feel normal, and your everyday tasks may seem hard to handle. Individuals with brain fog are easily distracted, feel tired, and forget easily. All these signs are your body’s response to psychological stress

Low libido

If you have reduced or zero interest in sex or no longer feel romantically attracted to your better half, it may be because there is too much stress in your life. Lack of sex drive can worsen your relationships or marriage, leading to severe stress levels.

What are the causes of psychological stress?

You may be aware of what is making you feel stressed. However, there is a possibility that there are other factors causing stress that you may not know. Psychological stress has severe effects on your mental and physical health. It’s thus essential to understand what is disturbing your peace. Some of the usual stressors include but are not limited to:


Financial problems are a significant cause of stress amongst most people. You have financial stress if you constantly argue with your partner about money or feel anxious when spending money.

The distress caused by financial stress may lead to blood pressure, chest pain, headaches, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and stomach upset, among other health conditions.


Intimate partners, friends, or family members can cause you stress. Dealing with toxic people affects your mental health.

Couples who don’t spend time together or aren’t intimate due to health conditions or busyness, don’t communicate often, or go through a divorce may experience relationship stress.

Abusive relationships and marriages are also significant causes of stress. You may often have a conflict with a loved one or become easily irritated when around them.

Job stress

Excess work, dissatisfaction with your career, job insecurity, and clashing with your boss or employee can cause high-stress levels. Worrying about your responsibilities or valuing your job at the cost of your other relationships can affect your physical and mental health.

Signs of job stress include poor work performance, depression, fatigue, headache, anxiety, isolation, and difficulty making decisions, among others. External factors such as personal life and health may also lead to work stress.

Raising children

Since most parents raise children and manage other demanding tasks such as jobs and household chores, they often feel stressed. The demands and expectations cause parenting stress.

People with high levels of parenting stress are harsh and hostile when handling their kids. Stress also damages the child-parent relationship leading to minimal communication.

Single parenting, low income, working for hours, marriage issues, and raising kids with special needs are some sources of parenting stress.

Daily inconveniences and busyness

Minor setbacks such as misplacing something, forgetting things, or running late can cause psychological stress, particularly if they happen frequently. Day-to-day stressors cause anxiety affecting both physical and mental health.

When you are too busy and having to work more than one job can be draining. Maybe due to necessity or because you can’t say “no” to others.

When you overwork, you tend to neglect your basic needs, such as exercising and eating healthy. In the long run, you may be diagnosed with psychological stress.

How is psychological stress diagnosed?

There is no single test to determine that you have psychological stress. Usually, a healthcare professional conducts several tests, including urine, blood, and family medical history, to exclude several medical conditions.

Your doctor may also assess your mental state to rule out anxiety or depressive disorders; symptoms may be similar to stress. For instance, symptoms of stress reduction when the stressors subside, but similar symptoms caused by depression may not subside unless under medication or therapy.

If your health professional concludes that you have psychological stress based on your symptoms, he will suggest a treatment plan. There are numerous stress management and treatment strategies to consider and implement before your health deteriorates.

How can you treat psychological stress?

There is no specific or single treatment for psychological stress. Its treatment plan involves developing coping mechanisms, avoiding or changing stressful situations, treating stress conditions, and applying relaxation techniques.

Your doctor might recommend CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), medication, or therapy depending on the causes and psychological stress levels.

Therapy helps in addressing psychological stress symptoms. The common forms of therapy treatment include MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). MBSR helps reduce stress levels, while CBT helps patients develop positive thinking patterns.

Psychological stress symptoms can be treated using antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, sleep aids, and antacids. CAM options include yoga, acupuncture, meditation, massage, and aromatherapy.

It’s almost impossible to avoid stress in life. However, you can learn to cope, especially if you understand how it can affect your mental and physical health. Learn to rest whenever you notice signs of burnout. Remember to work out regularly and practice self-care activities.

If you exhibit psychological stress symptoms, reach out to someone you trust before it’s too late. You can talk to a friend, spouse, relative, coworker, or, most importantly, a mental health specialist. Talking about what you are feeling may also help you relax and cope with the situation.


It’s normal to experience psychological stress when going through challenging situations in life. Please familiarize yourself with healthy ways of managing stress before it affects your physical and mental health. Remember, untreated pressure can increase the risk of certain diseases, cause weight gain or even make you look older.

When it’s too much to handle, get help from a mental health specialist. It’s never too late to live your best life!