Stress can cause strain in a person’s physical and mental function; extreme or prolonged stress can cause physical and mental distress, called stress exhaustion. Symptoms include severe and recurring headaches, lack of concentration and interest, difficulty sleeping, and muscle tension. Someone experiencing stress exhaustion may also become irritable or have problems with digestion; he or she may find it difficult to deal with day to day decisions. Prolonged stress exhaustion can lead to severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The treatment of stress exhaustion can include complete rest and relaxation, as well as avoiding or lessening things that caused stress exhaustion in the first place.
In psychology, stress is a term that refers to elevated physical and mental states, as well as the factors that cause such states. This means that when a person is in a challenging situation that demands physical or mental exertion, he or she is said to be under stress. Stress can occur as a result of sudden changes in life such as a prolonged illness, job change or the death of a loved one. Bodily disorders, especially those demanding prolonged treatment or those with no available treatment, can also cause stress. Stress, in turn, can also cause disorders to occur, although by what means it causes the development of such disorders is not fully understood.
One of the most recognized disorders linked to stress is depression, where a person feels miserable, discouraged, or dejected. Someone who is depressed may feel a loss of interest in usual activities and experience a disruption in normal sleep patterns; he or she may suddenly lose or gain weight or experience thoughts of self-punishment, and may even contemplate suicide. These symptoms, however, vary significantly from person to person. Simple depression may be treated by undergoing stress management techniques, or by simply avoiding or accepting those things that cause stress. Severe depression may be treated by taking prescribed drugs, psychotherapy, or shock therapy.
When a person perceives real or imaginary danger, the body's pituitary gland releases adrenocorticotropic hormone, triggering the release of various other hormones by the adrenal glands. These hormones act to speed up the heart rate and elevate the blood pressure, causing an increase in muscle tension. The person is said to be in a stressful condition, although the same responses may also occur as a result of emotional and occupational stress. These responses are usually short term, although they may persist and become symptoms of stress exhaustion.