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acute stress vs chronic stress

Acute Stress Vs Chronic Stress: What’s the Difference?

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According to the American Institute of Stress, an estimated 33% of adults regularly experience severe stress. 77% of the population suffers from stress that negatively impacts their physical health and 77% experience stress that interferes with their psychological wellness. About half of the population has problems sleeping due to anxiety.

Acute and chronic stress are two different types of mental and physical conditions. The difference between acute and chronic stress is that acute stress occurs during a specific event or time, chronic stress is ongoing and can increase or decrease in intensity over time. Both impact your health and well-being. Both types of stress affect the body by releasing stress hormones. If you suffer from either type of stress, you should seek medical advice.

We will get into detail of the debate of acute stress vs. chronic stress, along with the symptoms and treatments for acute vs. chronic stress.

Acute Stress vs. Chronic Stress – Duration

Chronic stress can have long-term effects on the body, including impaired immune function and increased risk of diseases. Acute stress lasts several hours or even a day, while chronic stress can take weeks or even years to show its effects. In both cases, stress hormones are released and the person feels overwhelmed.

Acute stress can affect your mood, relationships, and even your health in the short-term.On the other hand, chronic stress is the result of long-term exposure to stressful situations. Moreover, acute stress doesn’t have time to cause permanent damage to your body.

Acute Stress vs. Chronic Stress – Causes and Symptoms

Symptoms of acute and chronic stress can be different for each person and some patients might experience more serious symptoms than others.

Causes

Acute stress is caused by a stressful situation, such as a traffic jam. Chronic stress results from ongoing or traumatic life events or structural factors. There are various treatment options for both types of stress, including cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and therapy.

Acute stress can result in physical reactions to a perceived threat. This response is called “flight or fight”. The physical effects of acute stress are temporary, and it will subside once the threat is no longer present. Short-term acute stress can also be caused by new experiences, such as braking a car or skiing down a steep slope. Acute stress is beneficial for people to cope with potentially dangerous or new situations.

Symptoms

The two types of stress can affect the body in different ways, with each type of stress causing a different set of physical and psychological symptoms. Chronic stress affects the body in different ways, as it can affect the functioning of the nervous system and the production of stress hormones. Physical symptoms of acute stress include sleep problems, intrusive dreams, and anxiety.

Unlike acute stress, chronic stress is more difficult to cure. The symptoms of chronic stress can include nausea, vomiting, stomach discomfort, and changes in appetite. Some suffer from severe acid reflux, heartburn, and stomach pain. Some people also experience diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive problems. When these effects are combined, chronic stress can cause serious problems, such as heart attacks. Those who experience chronic stress may be more prone to develop certain serious diseases too, such as cancer.

Acute Stress vs. Chronic Stress – Reactions and Impacts

Reactions

Acute stress reactions occur as a result of major trauma or a traumatic experience. They can be triggered by close calls, sudden bereavement, or other major traumas. During these times, certain symptoms may be experienced and they last only a short time. People who have suffered from a traumatic experience may avoid situations that trigger the memories. Acute stress may even cause self-destructive behavior. If you’ve experienced acute stress, you probably know what it feels like to have a panic attack.

Impacts

Chronic stress has a lasting impact on the brain, and can alter immune function. The immune system is overloaded, which can lead to diseases and strained relationships. People suffering from episodic acute stress may experience short-term episodes of stress without any noticeable long-term effects. For these people, therapy can be as simple as changing a lifestyle, and seeking professional help if necessary.

Acute and chronic stress are harmful for both physical and mental health. The former leads to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, while the latter affects muscle tissue and inhibits growth. Both types of stress affect your nervous system, which influences your physiological and affective responses to stress.  

Stressors

There are many types of acute and chronic stressors. For example, many professionals consider the amount of time they must spend in traffic before they begin work. While traffic does not result in acute stress, it can be a chronic stressor. It depends on the driver’s perception of traffic stress. Acute stressors can range from minor to severe, and many of them last only a couple of days.

Acute Stress vs. Chronic Stress – Relationship with Depression

Although acute stress and depression are likely to interact, it is unclear whether chronic stress has independent associations with major depression.

Psychological stress that is a result of chronic stress has been linked to many different medical conditions, including diabetes and peptic ulcers. It can also change the concentration of acids in the stomach, affecting the body’s ability to heal itself. It has also been associated with digestive disorders, such as peptic ulcers and ulcerative colitis. The relationship between psychological stress and mental health is stronger in neuroses, including schizophrenia and depression. But the connection between psychological and physical stress is complex.

Who is at risk?

There is evidence that genetics play a role in determining how we react to stress. It is possible that minor differences in genes can lead to overactive stress responses. Studies have also indicated that chronic stress is more severe in historically marginalized groups. In general, Black and Hispanic individuals are more stressed than their non-racially-diverse peers. Likewise, people who have experienced a violent crime are more vulnerable to chronic stress than people who have no such experiences.

Conclusion

If you experience both acute and chronic stress, it is important to address the root causes of the symptoms. Changing your perspective, developing coping strategies, and seeking professional help are all helpful methods to deal with chronic stress. You can consider self-help techniques such as identifying triggers, developing coping strategies, and practicing mindfulness.

It’s best to see a physician for a routine physical exam and any signs of chronic or acute stress. Your primary care provider can check blood pressure, heart rate, weight, cholesterol, and thyroid hormone levels. A stress assessment should be part of your annual check-up because some of these symptoms are also a sign of other health problems.

To get a timely diagnosis for accurate treatment, contact HG Analytics. We provide screening and health check services for all types of stress and other disorders. Self-care should be your number one priority, therefore if you have been showing symptoms of acute or chronic stress, book an appointment with us.

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