Types Of Stressors (Eustress Vs. Distress)

We often use the term “stress” to describe negative experiences or situations. This leads many people to believe that all stress is bad for you, which is not always true.

Stress is an inevitable part of life and can be beneficial and detrimental. Understanding the differences between the types of stress is critical in ensuring you’re coping in healthy ways. 

In this article, you will learn about the types of stressors, how to manage them, and how they affect the medical industry. 

Types of Stressors (Eustress vs. Distress)

Stress comes in two different forms – eustress and distress. 

Eustress, sometimes known as the “good stress” is an acute form of short-lived stress that can be beneficial to the body. It motivates people to take action and can help them achieve goals.

Distress is an unhealthy form of stress that can cause both physical and mental health issues. It is caused by prolonged or intense stressors such as work overload, financial problems, or relationship troubles. Distress can lead to high levels of anxiety and depression.

Both eustress and distress can affect a person’s ability to think clearly and act in a rational manner. It is important to recognize which type of stress an individual is experiencing in order to deal with it in a healthy way.

Eustress characteristics:

Motivates and focuses energy

Is short-term

Is perceived as within our coping abilities

Feels exciting.

Improves performance

Distress characteristics:

Feels overwhelming

Is long-term

Is perceived as beyond our coping abilities

Causes anxiety and depression

Leads to decreased performance

It is important to understand the differences between eustress and distress in order to determine how to cope with stress in healthy ways. Knowing the types of stressors that may be affecting you can help you choose the right coping strategies to manage your stress levels and improve your overall well-being.

Eustress is typically caused by positive events, such as achieving a goal or a major accomplishment. Eustress is generally perceived as a positive experience, while distress can be difficult to cope with. Distress is often caused by negative life events, such as financial difficulties or the death of a loved one.

6 Similarities Between Eustress and Distress

Now’s time for the interesting part. We’re going to examine what eustress and distress have in common. Let’s break down six ways that distress and eustress are similar:

1. Both cause our bodies to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol

2. They force us to leave our comfort zone and experience new things, like a change of any kind

3. We can experience mental and physical health problems from both of them

4. While distress can be long-term, it can also be on a short-term basis like eustress is

5. When we’re in either of these stressful situations, we have a fight or flight stress response

6. We can track both types of stress to evaluate how they make us feel

While many experts recognize the distinction between eustress and distress on the surface, there are still varying opinions about each concept in academic circles. A 2020 paper published in National Library of Medicine suggested that individual beliefs heavily influence how someone perceives and responds to stress. 

For instance, one person may experience an event as stressful but positive, while another might find it difficult and overwhelming. Therefore, it’s important for everyone to understand their own feelings towards stressful situations and learn how to cope with them better instead of relying solely on eustress or distress as concepts for interpreting them.

Navigating Stress in the Healthcare Industry 

Stress plays a significant role in the field of medicine, influencing both healthcare professionals and patients. The dynamics of eustress and distress within the medical realm are complex, impacting individuals at various levels, from medical students and practitioners to patients facing health challenges. In the medical field, stress can be caused by both eustress and distress. Healthcare professionals are exposed to numerous types of stressors on a daily basis, from dealing with challenging patients to managing long work hours. It is important for healthcare professionals to recognize which type of stress they’re experiencing in order to properly manage it. Understanding how stress manifests in the medical field is crucial for promoting the well-being of all involved.

 Eustress for Medical Professionals

  1. Challenging Cases and Professional Growth: Medical professionals often encounter eustress when faced with challenging cases. Successfully diagnosing and treating complex conditions can be professionally rewarding, fostering a sense of accomplishment and personal growth.
  2. Educational Pursuits: Pursuing further education or specialization can be a source of eustress for healthcare professionals. Embracing opportunities to enhance skills and knowledge can lead to career advancement and increased job satisfaction.
  3. Team Collaboration: Collaborative efforts within medical teams can generate eustress. Working together to solve medical challenges fosters camaraderie and a shared sense of achievement, positively impacting the overall work environment.

Distress in Medical Practice

  1. Workload and Burnout: High workloads, long hours, and the pressure to provide optimal patient care contribute to distress among healthcare professionals. Burnout, characterized by emotional exhaustion and a sense of depersonalization, is a prevalent issue in the medical field.
  2. Patient Outcomes and Emotional Strain: Unfavorable patient outcomes or dealing with terminal illnesses can cause significant distress. Healthcare professionals often form deep connections with their patients, and witnessing suffering or loss can take an emotional toll.
  3. Administrative Challenges: Navigating administrative tasks, such as paperwork, insurance issues, and regulatory compliance, can lead to distress. These tasks, while essential, may divert attention from patient care and contribute to job dissatisfaction.

Medical Students: Balancing Learning and Well-Being

Eustress in Medical Education

  1. Academic Challenges: For medical students, the rigors of academic challenges can induce eustress. Successfully mastering complex medical concepts and skills provides a sense of achievement and progress toward becoming competent healthcare professionals.
  2. Clinical Experiences: Engaging in clinical rotations and gaining hands-on experience can be a source of eustress. Applying theoretical knowledge to real-life situations enhances learning and prepares students for future medical practice.

Distress in Medical Education

  1. Competitive Pressure: The competitive nature of medical education can contribute to distress among students. The fear of academic failure, coupled with the pressure to secure residency positions, can negatively impact mental health.
  2. Work-Life Balance: Balancing academic demands with personal life is a constant challenge for medical students. The demanding nature of medical education can lead to stress related to time management and self-care.

Patients: The Impact of Health-Related Stress

Eustress for Patients

  1. Treatment Success and Recovery: Positive health outcomes, successful treatments, and recovery can generate eustress for patients. Overcoming health challenges often leads to a renewed appreciation for life and increased resilience.
  2. Supportive Healthcare Relationships: Building supportive relationships with healthcare providers can be a source of eustress. Trust and effective communication contribute to a positive healthcare experience for patients.

Distress in Patients

  1. Diagnosis and Uncertainty: Receiving a serious diagnosis or facing medical uncertainty can lead to distress. The fear of the unknown and the emotional burden of a health crisis are significant stressors for patients.
  2. Treatment Side Effects: The side effects of medical treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery, can cause distress. Physical discomfort, emotional strain, and lifestyle changes contribute to the overall stress experienced by patients.

Strategies for Managing Stress in the Medical Field

  1. Mindfulness and Resilience Training: Introducing mindfulness and resilience training programs for healthcare professionals and students can enhance their ability to cope with stressors effectively.
  2. Mental Health Support Services: Providing accessible mental health support services is crucial. Offering counselling and resources for healthcare professionals, medical students, and patients can address the psychological impact of stress.
  3. Workplace Culture: Fostering a positive and supportive workplace culture is essential for mitigating distress among healthcare professionals. Encouraging open communication, teamwork, and acknowledging accomplishments can contribute to a healthier work environment.
  4. Patient Education: Educating patients about their conditions, treatment options, and potential stressors can empower them to actively participate in their healthcare journey and better manage distress.

The interplay of eustress and distress in the medical field is multifaceted. Recognizing and addressing these stressors is crucial for promoting the well-being of healthcare professionals, medical students, and patients alike. By implementing strategies to manage stress effectively, the medical community can work towards fostering a healthier and more resilient environment for all involved.


Stress is a normal part of life and can be divided into two distinct categories – Eustress and Distress. The distinction between the two is crucial as it influences our physical and mental well-being. While eustress can be a motivating force, propelling individuals toward growth and achievement, distress can lead to anxiety and depression.

In the medical field, stress takes on a multifaceted role, affecting healthcare professionals, medical students, and patients. 

To navigate stress effectively in the medical field, strategies such as mindfulness and resilience training, mental health support services, fostering positive workplace cultures, and patient education are crucial. Implementing these strategies can contribute to a healthier and more resilient environment for healthcare professionals, medical students, and patients. 

Recognizing and addressing stressors is essential for promoting the overall well-being of everyone, even beyond the medical community. Stress is inevitable, but understanding its facets is the key to promoting overall well-being.

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