What's the difference between mental and physical stress?

In summary, the discussion revolved around the differences between mental and physical stress. The person studying psychology defined physical stress as the stress experienced by the body due to physical triggers, while mental stress is the tension between thoughts or abstract concepts in the mind. The conversation also touched on the fact that stress can have both emotional and physical effects on the body, and that in the context of medicine and biology, stress is often seen as a combination of both mental and physical stress.
  • #1
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I had a discussion with someone who studies psychology recently and she was referring to mental stress as of what I thought being called physical stress. Namely while she was talking about mental stress she mentioned stressors and hormones.

So my problem:
  1. Stress = tension
  2. Physical = referring to something tangible
  3. Mental = referring to the mind (notice not brain - not tangible)

From the above, this is how I understand the two terms:

Physical stress is the stress experienced by a human where physical things take place. For example talking to the girl you like, might result in stress hormones being produced in your body (physical things) which have the effect of high blood pulse (physical) and make you sweat (physical).

Mental stress is the tension between two thoughts or some other abstract thing going in a person's mind. I can't really get my head around this one.

So. My question is.. do you think the same? Am I wrong? Are semantics different in psychology, medicine, everyday life? Am I autistic or just stupid? What is the difference between mental and physical stress?
 
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  • #2
Physical stress is ... for example talking to the girl you like,
I'd call that mental stress. Whether it be struggling what to say to a cute girl, or struggling with inner demons, those are both mental.

Examples of physical stress would be weight-lifting or running.
 
  • #3
In any medical context I've encountered the word stress is used to apply to both at the same time. Stress may be a mental phenomenon but it has very well known physical symptoms from diet dysregulation, immune function, sleep patterns etcetera. In another context stress can be used in a mechanical sense, like putting stress on on a limb, but in my experience the latter is a different use of the word. It isn't something people would necessarily refer to as physical stress.
 
  • #4
To expand on what Ryan said, you might want to read this publication.

Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension.

Emotional stress usually occurs when a person feels the situation is difficult or challenging. Physical stress is a physical reaction of the body to various triggers. The pain experienced after surgery is an example of physical stress. Physical stress often leads to emotional stress, which often occurs in the form of physical stress, such as stomach cramps, for example.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001942.htm
 
  • #5
"In another context stress can be used in a mechanical sense, like putting stress on on a limb, but in my experience the latter is a different use of the word. It isn't something people would necessarily refer to as physical stress."
Yes, actually, that is exactly the definition of physical stress. Anything emotional is mental stress.
 
  • #6
Pithikos said:
stress hormones being produced in your body (physical things)

The very fact that mental stress can produce physical changes is reason not to take it lightly.

BoB
 
  • #7
When fish vets and biologists consider stress in fish (which can not talk to communicate their internal mental states), they take two approaches: behavior observations (respiration rate, and actions like cowering (hiding)) and production of the "stress hormone" cortisol.

The causes are often things like threats (like predators) or poor environmental conditions (water quality, oxygenation levels, etc), or illness.

Extended over production of cortisol is thought to result in a general deterioration of body condition, lack of growth, reduced reproduction, and poor immune function.
 

1. What is mental stress?

Mental stress is a type of stress that affects the mind and emotions. It is often caused by external factors such as work, relationships, or financial problems. Mental stress can also be caused by internal factors such as anxiety, depression, or trauma. It can manifest as feelings of worry, anxiety, or overwhelm.

2. What is physical stress?

Physical stress is a type of stress that affects the body. It is often caused by physical exertion, illness, injury, or poor nutrition. Physical stress can also be caused by external factors such as exposure to extreme temperatures, noise, or pollution. It can manifest as fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, or digestive issues.

3. How are mental and physical stress different?

The main difference between mental and physical stress is the source of the stress. Mental stress is primarily caused by external or internal factors that affect the mind and emotions, while physical stress is caused by external factors that affect the body. Additionally, mental stress can manifest as emotional symptoms, while physical stress can manifest as physical symptoms.

4. Can mental stress cause physical symptoms?

Yes, mental stress can cause physical symptoms. Chronic or severe mental stress can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, stomach issues, and fatigue. This is because stress triggers the release of certain hormones that can affect the body's functioning.

5. How can I manage both mental and physical stress?

Some ways to manage both mental and physical stress include practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist. It is also important to identify the sources of stress and try to find ways to reduce or eliminate them from your life.

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