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What is stress?

Stress is the complex interaction between the events of life and the perception of those events by an individual. Everyone experiences stress and everyone learns either to cope with the stress or not.

Certain events in life are seen as very stressful. Some of the most stressful events include the death of a spouse, divorce, separation, and spending time in jail. Other significant stress factors include serious injury or illness, marriage, being fired from one's job, reconciliation of a relationship, and retirement.

How one deals with stress depends upon one's genetic make-up, background, and sources of emotional and social support. Everyone has ways of defending against excessive stress. Some of those defenses are psychological in nature. Good or healthy psychological responses help people to cope well with stress. Unhealthy responses may lead to physical or emotional problems. It is also possible that even healthy people can be overcome by stress if the stress they are dealing with is too great or if they are in a weakened condition.

What can people do if they need help?

If you, a friend, or a family member would like more information and you have a therapist or a physician, please discuss your concerns with that person.

Reviewed by athealth on February 8, 2014.