Identify the common causes of distress (A list)

In this guide, we will discuss the common causes of distress, signs, symptoms and what to do of we identify we are in distress. 

Identify the common causes of distress: What are they?

Some of the identified common causes o distress include but are not limited to:

  • Having interpersonal relationship problems such as being ill, experiencing the expiry of a loved one, going through a divorce, experiencing abuse, conflicts with a romantic partner, family, parents, etc.
  • Having financial difficulties
  • Having problems adjusting to a new situation or a new environment
  • Having academic difficulties
  • Time management and organization difficulties
  • Having anxiety

Stress is not always considered as a bad thing, this is how our body reacts to environmental situations that can potentially be dangerous or harmful.

In our daily lives, we experience negative situations that potentially lead to feeling stressed. 

Some of the characteristics of stress include (

  • It causes anxiety or concern.
  • It can be short- or long-term.
  • Is perceived as outside of our coping abilities.
  • Feels unpleasant.
  • Decreases performance due to anergia.
  • It can lead to mental and physical problems.

In addition, some of the additional identified causes of stress include (

  • Losing contact with loved ones.
  • The death of a family member.
  • Hospitalization (oneself or a family member).
  • wound or illness (oneself or a family member).
  • Being abused or neglected.
  • Separation from a spouse or committed relationship partner.
  • Conflict in interpersonal relationships.
  • Bankruptcy/Money Problems.
  • Unemployment.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Children’s problems at school.
  • Legal problems.
  • Having depression
  • Experiencing a traumatic event
  • Substance abuse
  • Academic difficulties

According to “Distress is a particular kind of stress that many of us will undoubtedly experience at some time in our lives. Many of us think of distress as being the emotion felt in a situation that is perhaps life-threatening or frightening. For example, seeing someone hurt in an accident can be considered distressing.”

So, if you are in distress this can help you identify the symptoms and signs or if you are actually not in distress, it can help you to identify them and be able to support people who are experiencing stress and distress.

It is important to question ourselves when identifying common causes of distress, “Is this really a problem?”, “is this distressed behavior becoming problematic?” and “what are the triggers or sources of distress?”. 

Sources of distress

In the current world, we live in, we are constantly bombarded with stressful situations and stimuli.

Some of the most common sources include work and employment in the form of having excessive job demands, being insecure when developing work-related tasks, having conflicts with teammates, your boss or supervisor, missing or having a lack of training to develop work-related tasks, giving oral presentations to clients or other colleagues, travel schedules or commuting to work, among many other sources.  

It is important to consider that these stressful situations or stressors are not always limited to things to happen externally but also internal events can be sources of distress in the form of feelings and thoughts and habitual behaviors.

Some of them include certain phobias or fears such as being afraid of heights, public speaking, engaging in conversations with new people, closed spaces or crowded places, among many others.

Some repetitive thoughts or recurrent thoughts can also be a source of anxiety, over-worrying about future events or having unrealistic expectations have also been identified as common causes of distress. 

Some experts have always debated whether we are born with certain emotional responses or we have learned them through our interaction with the environment.

Some may argue it is a combination of both.

For instance, the crying response in young babies is an early human response we are born with, we don’t actually learn as newborns how to cry.

This response is useful so babies can attract their mother’s attention to meet their needs. 

Signs and symptoms of distress

There are some signs and symptoms that can help determine or identify if someone is distressed, such as (

  • Significant changes in their eating, sleeping, personal hygiene, mood, and socialization patterns.
  • Trouble or difficulties maintaining a conversation since they may seem distracted or out of focus.
  • Significant changes in their performance ar work or school.
  • They tend to verbalize thoughts related to hopelessness, expiry or suicide
  • Feeling as if they are going crazy or lacking emotional/behavioral control
  • Racing thoughts
  • Being overly dependent on others 

Distress: is it good or bad?

Stress can be divided into two categories, good stress or eustress, and bad stress.

Distress is more related to negative stress. 

Good stress also known as Eustress is considered a good kind of stress.

This can be considered as a feeling of excitement we can have in our lives when, for example, we buy a house or we feel loved by others.

This is considered a good and positive type of stress. 

As we mentioned already, stress can also be associated with a negative emotion but it is not only limited to certain events such as witnessing or being in a car accident or feeling we are in a life-threatening situation.

Distress can actually impact someone’s life in a negative way when they don’t have the coping skills to deal with it or know how to express it.

This can lead to a state of shock leaving them unable to communicate effectively. 

When someone faces the expiry of a loved one, distress can evoke feelings of fear and be left alone, giving them the impression their world is falling apart and there is nothing they can do about it.

This is because our mind tends to make us overthink and ruminate on thoughts and emotions, giving us the impression they are not only thoughts but a part of our real lives.

People often behave within what is expected from them or in response to societal norms.

However, some emotions can become so powerful that tend to control our lives and reality which we can recognize as distress. 

As we have discussed, there are many reasons why someone can feel distressed and they tend to vary from one person to the other.

Worrying about being ill or someone we love, receiving bad news, having problems in our personal relationships, worrying about money or simply having an emotional reaction after something we have heard or seen in the news, can be sources of distress. 

Are Your Really Distressed?

Can you actually recognize if you are feeling distressed?

Sometimes it becomes such a normal thing to feel on a daily basis that we forget how it feels not to be distressed, for some people that is something they can relate every day. 

Moreover, sometimes we tend to confuse distress with something else or we tend to exaggerate and make the situation look bigger than it really is.

Perhaps we may be feeling low or lacking self-esteem during certain times but we can quickly regain control and feel better, which can help us carry on with our lives as normal. 

When you are truly suffering from distress, you often feel that the stress can keep going becoming a more chronic situation which tends to lead to the manifestation of physical symptoms and even medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems, eating disorders, headaches, among others. 

Once you have identified and are familiar with the signs, symptoms, and behaviors of distress, it can be useful to make decisions and seek for help, either within friends and family or a more professional approach. 

If you feel you are suffering from distress, it is important to seek professional guidance for early prevention of further medical complications or even developing mental illnesses such as depression. 

In addition, when you are not in distress but you can identify some of the symptoms and signs of distress in someone else, it is easier to recognize why they are becoming distressed, what their behavior is, for instance, if they have a higher pitch than usual or their facial expressions significantly change (e.g scowling, crying or snarling), their pupils seem to be constantly dilated, their eyes open wider, manifestations of restlessness or agitation, becoming irritable ot aggressive, sweat excessively or breathe faster than usual, can actually help you to support them and help them get out of that distressed state.  

Why is this blog about identifying the common causes of distress important?

As discussed identifying common causes of distress in yourself or others is useful for early intervention and treatment.

Distress can be both good and bad depending on the emotional response the situation causes when perceived positively or negatively. 

Asking for help when we gave identified distress is controlling our lives to an extent we are feeling hopeless and not able to do anything about it is key, whether through friends or family or through professional mental health guidance. 

Please feel free to comment in the comments section below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about identifying the common causes of distress

What are the causes of distress?

Some of the causes of distress include problems within interpersonal relationships such as divorce, abuse, conflicts with a romantic partner, being ill or experiencing the expiry of a loved one, etc. 

What are signs of distress?

Signs of distress include an increase in the frequency of recurrent physical complaints, being ill continuously with colds or flu, etc, sweating excessively, having difficulties when breathing, intense pain, feeling fatigued or drained, having sleep problems (insomnia), falling asleep suddenly under unexpected circumstances, among others. 

What does it mean when someone is in distress?

When someone is in distress, it means they are going through an episode or period of severe anxiety that involves certain physical and emotional symptoms.

What are the causes of emotional distress?

Causes of distress can include life changes such as a divorce or de the expiry of a loved one, being a caregiver, having financial difficulties, giving birth or raising children, being homeless, attending to several things at once (e.g work, family, school), living with a chronic medical condition, among others. 

What are the 5 signs of emotional suffering?

The 5 signs of emotional sufferings include:

– Changes in personality

– Agitation/restlessness

– Social withdrawal

– Neglecting personal hygiene

– Hopelessness 


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