What's the difference between mental and physical stress?

  • #1
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1

Main Question or Discussion Point

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?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
DaveC426913
Gold Member
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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
Ryan_m_b
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
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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
Evo
Mentor
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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
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"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
rbelli1
Gold Member
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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
BillTre
Science Advisor
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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.
 

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