In medicine, distress is an aversive state in which a person is unable to adapt completely to stressors and their resulting stress and shows maladaptive behaviors. It can be evident in the presence of various phenomena, such as inappropriate social interaction (e.g., aggression, passivity, or withdrawal).
Distress is the opposite of eustress, a positive stress that motivates people.
Stress can be created by influences such as work, school, peers or co-workers, family and death. Other influences vary by age.
People under constant distress are more likely to become sick, mentally or physically. There is a clear response association between psychological distress and major causes of mortality across the full range of distress.
Higher education has been linked to a reduction in psyochological distress in both men and women, and these effects persist throughout the aging process, not just immediately after receiving education. However, this link does lessen with age. The major mechanism by which higher education plays a role on reducing stress in men is moreso related to labor-market resources rather than social resources as in women.
In the clinic, distress is a Patient reported outcome that has a huge impact on patient's quality of life. To assess patient distress, a Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale or HADS questionnaire is most commonly used. The score from the HADS questionnaire guides a clinician to recommend lifestyle modifications or further assessment for mental disorders like depression.
People often find ways of dealing with distress, in both negative and positive ways. Examples of positive ways are listening to music, calming exercises, sports and similar healthy distractions. Negative ways can include but are not limited to use of drugs including alcohol, and expression of anger, which are likely to lead to complicated social interactions, thus causing increased distress.
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- Tom C Russ, Emmanuel Stamatakis, Mark Hamer, John M Starr, Mika Kivimäki, G David Batty. Association between psychological distress and mortality: individual participant pooled analysis of 10 prospective cohort studies
- 1: Brännlund A, Hammarström A. Higher education and psychological distress: A 27-year prospective cohort study in Sweden. Scand J Public Health. 2013 Nov 21.[Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID 24265167.
- C. H. Hansen, J. Walker, P. Thekkumpurath, A. Kleiboer, C. Beale, A. Sawhney, G. Murray and M. Sharpe (2013). Screening medical patients for distress and depression: does measurement in the clinic prior to the consultation overestimate distress measured at home?. Psychological Medicine, 43, pp 2121-2128 doi:10.1017/S0033291712002930