Some stressed people can be so stressed that they experience a meltdown. Other people have a stress that is longer and often have to do with example a long period of bad work situation. What is the difference betwen these two kinds of stress?
It also seems that worrying can create stress. It also seem that when you try to analyze (more or less conscious) a certain situation and really failing that you will experience stress. What can you say about this?

ANSWER: Stress is defined as a demand or pressure to adjust or adapt to a situation.  Various life events and experience can be stressful - both positive and negative events.  Moving to a new place is stressful, even if it seen as a positive event.

A meltdown is an immediate or acute response to stress.  It is part of the fight or flight response and has a large physical component.   If the stressful situation continues over time (weeks, months, years), people experience a chronic response.  This is known as the General Adaptation Syndrome, which results in physical exhaustion, and a compromised immune system.  

The way we respond to a stressful situation can increase or decrease the impact of stress.  Factors that decrease stress include: having a strong social network, the belief that we are able to be successful, predicatability of the stress, and a general optimistic attitude.  Factors that worsen the impact of stress are lack of social support, negative attitude, inability to predict stress and the feeling that one has no control over events.    Physical activity and relaxation skills can also reduce the negative effects of stress as can replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.  Excessive worrying and rumination on a topic will increase the feelings of distress.

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QUESTION: Would it be right to say that PTSD is more than just stress? Isn't PTSD a bit more than just stress?
And is it true that worrying has more to do with neocortex wheras anxiety is more about limbic system? And how is stress different from anxiety?

Stress is a response to a situation that upsets our physical and/or psychological equilibrium.  It requires us to adapt. Look up The General Adaptation Syndrome - studied by Hans Selye.   The stressor can be positive or negative - so getting married can be just as stressful as getting divorced, for example.   PTSD is a psychological disorder caused by exposure to traumatic events - which are terrifying and life threatening.  It is a serious disorder that causes changes in the startle reflex, sleep-wake cycles, obsessive thoughts and sometimes delusions.

Anxiety is an internal state of turmoil, with rumination, physiological components such as rapid heart rate, nausea and a sense of fear.  Anxiety can be healthy in certain situations and motivate us.  However, if the anxiety is interfering with everyday living, it is maladaptive.  

The neocortex controls executive function - which is planning, organization, attention etc.  So, your neocortex should be able to logically override the anxiety being generated by the limbic system, in the case of simple anxiety.  Indeed, cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety uses this approach.  In PTSD, the neocortex cannot override the limbic system.  


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Katherine ONeill


I can answer academic questions about psychology. I am not a clinician (therapist), I am a research psychologist with expertise in biopsychology, general psychology, cognitive psychology, research methods and psychopharmacology.


I have 25 years experience as a researcher in health behavior, biopsychology and psychopharmacology.

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Ph.D. Experimental Psychology, University of Rhode Island, 1983. Post doctoral fellow dept of psychiatry, New York University Medical Center, 1983-1984. Post doctoral fellow, dept of pharmacology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 1984-1985.

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