Mental stress. Can you live without it?

Stress response can be considered only in the presence of the protective processes triggered with a threat. Physiological and behavioral responses to threat are associated with the internal psychological structure of personality and its role in the intent of the individual to deal with this threat. The nature of stress response is causally related to the psychological structure of personality interacting with the external situation through the processes of evaluation and self-defense.

Mental stress as a special psychological status is a form of reflection of the complex and extreme situation faced by the individual. The specificity of mental reflection lies in activities, which features are largely determined by its chosen or accepted goals, induced by the content of activity motives.

The analysis of studies on mental stress suggests to consider this condition as a non-specific reaction of the human body in response to the complex (extreme) situations, which depends not only on the nature of extreme factors, but also on degree of the person’s adequacy and susceptibility and also on individual characteristics of this response and personal behavioral regulation.

The phenomenon of mental stress consists of:

  • A set of immediate psychological reactions, which in general can be defined as a form of perception and processing of the personal valuable information, which occurs in the situation as an emotionally-negative experience;
  • A process of psychological adaptation to the emotionally-negative subjective state;
  • A state of psychological maladjustment, caused by emotional signals known to the person due to violation of psychological adaptation, which leads to the deviant behavior of the individual.

According to research, each of these three states is accompanied by a wide range of physiological changes throughout the body. Vegetative, symptomatic adrenal and endocrine correlates are detected with the occurrence of any emotion or emotional tension (both positive or negative) in the process of psychological adaptation to the effects of stress and in the phase of psychological maladjustment. At the first stage of the stress response the rapidly growing emotional excitement contributes to the deviant behavior, especially if the content that makes up these emotions conflicts with goals and objectives of the person’s activity. Then the complex process of analysis and selection of actions (choosing the better strategy) fails.

The term “psychological stress” (or “mental stress”) is sometimes related to other concepts, such as anxiety, stress, etc. Anxiety occurs when the person perceives certain stimuli or situation as the actual or potential elements of danger, threat, or harm. The symptoms of anxiety may vary in intensity and change over time in accordance with the level of stress. This statement corresponds with the understanding of psychological stress as a set of external factors (stress factors), which are perceived by the person as an excessive demand and pose a threat to one’s self-regard and self-esteem, causing the corresponding emotional reaction (a state of anxiety) of varying intensity. The tendency to this kind of emotional reactivity may be defined as a trait anxiety.