Intense stress – friend or foe?

Andrii Solonskyi, MS in Psychology January 19, 2023

Combat of Achilles and Hector in the presence of Athena and Apollo. Pottery. 490BC-460BC.

We all have stress in our lives. It’s a normal part of life and can help us perform well at work, school, and in relationships. But when stress becomes too intense, it can cause mental health issues, increase your risk for disease and even lead to death. Anima is an application that shows you your psychological state. It helps you manage your emotional reactions in stressful situations by acknowledging and describing them instead of trying to suppress them. It helps you identify and manage emotional patterns, predict future psychological states, and allows you to share your emotional insights with close friends or family.

Acute vs. chronic stress

Stress is a normal response to an abnormal situation. Stress can be acute or chronic (long term). Acute stress is a short-term response to an immediate threat or challenge [3]. Chronic stress is long-term and can lead to serious health problems.

It’s a common misconception that stress is always bad. In fact, some amount of stress can help you perform at your best and reach your goals.

For example, if you are planning to make an important presentation at work and feel stress as a result of the pressure, it’s possible that the extra motivation will help you succeed. Or if you’re preparing for a big sporting event or exam where success is essential to your long-term goals and aspirations, feeling stressed may help motivate you to put in extra time practicing and studying so that nothing holds back your performance on game day (or test day).

However, too much stress can be harmful to both mental health and physical health over time—and research suggests that today’s society tends toward chronic exposure to high levels of psychological distress due to increased demands from work environments that require us all to constantly be connected electronically 24/7 .

Symptoms of acute and chronic stress

The symptoms of acute and chronic stress are similar, but they differ in the duration of their effects. Acute stress occurs suddenly and is relatively short-lived (lasting less than six months). Chronic stress is more prolonged and can lead to serious health problems over time [1].

  • Anxiety, depression, and irritability
  • Insomnia, fatigue, or loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy

Chronic stress can also increase your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It can also lead to stroke or high blood pressure—both major causes of death globally. Additionally, chronic stress may contribute to weight gain, which further increases the risk for these diseases (and others) by increasing blood sugar levels.

How intense is stress?

People have different thresholds, meaning that some people are more sensitive to stress. If you find yourself struggling with the typical stress symptoms, and having trouble figuring out if something is stressful or not?  Try Anima – it will help you to identify how intense is the stress for you, as well as what’s causing it and what are your habits in such situations. Anima also provides you with personalised coping strategies.

Why do danger and importance matter?

The danger and importance of a stressful situation affects how the brain perceives stress. If something is dangerous, it can threaten your survival; if something is important, it affects your ability to function or learn. The first factor also plays into the second: if something is important because it threatens your survival, then it has both high importance and high danger at once.

Neuroscientists have identified a number of brain regions involved in the stress response. The amygdala, hippocampus, frontal cortex, and thalamus are all involved in processing emotional stimuli and then triggering an appropriate response. The hypothalamus—the part of the brain responsible for regulating basic body functions such as heart rate and blood pressure—is also important because it controls the secretion of hormones that help trigger a stress response.

Why does stress change our behavior?

The more stressors you experience, the more likely it is that your brain will be flooded with hormones and neurotransmitters [2]. These chemicals can affect the way you perceive danger and importance, which means they can change how you behave.

When we have a lot of stress in our lives, we’re prone to focusing on minor details while ignoring bigger problems—like when someone mentions something off-hand about how one of their coworkers has been acting strangely lately but we get so wrapped up in thinking about what color shirt to wear that day that we don’t actually hear anything else they say for awhile (oops).

While this isn’t always a bad thing—it’s good for us to zero in on details when we need them—it can cause trouble if those details aren’t really worth worrying about (like whether or not your coworker has been acting strangely).

Stress can cause or worsen chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity [4]. Stress can also exacerbate depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In addition to the well-known relationship between stress and depression (which is often cited in terms of incidence), high levels of work-related stress can contribute to an increased risk for depression among individuals with a genetic tendency toward it.

Understanding how the brain perceives danger and importance can help us manage stress.

It’s important to understand the difference between stress and dangerous situations so that you can manage your stress well. Dangerous situations are those that may be life-threatening or will result in physical harm (e.g., being chased by a bear). Stress is a normal response to danger, but it does not necessarily mean the same thing as danger itself.

We also need to understand how our brains perceive importance and urgency in order to manage stress. Our brain favors stress signals over any other because of their contribution to our survival. This means that if we’re stressed out over something, it can make us focus on whatever makes us feel like we’re in danger—even if the thing we’re stressing out about isn’t actually dangerous!

Intense stress can be a very difficult thing to deal with. If you are experiencing intense stress, it is important that you learn techniques for managing your emotions and reactions. Knowing how stressed you are is the first step to lessening those feelings. Anima is an app that shows you just how intense your stress levels are. It focuses on the mental aspects of stress, such as anxiety, avoidance, and hypervigilance. It analyses your stress, compares it with others, and gives you tips on how to cope.


  1. McEwen, B. S. (2017). Neurobiological and systemic effects of chronic stress. Chronic stress, 1, 2470547017692328.
  2. Herman, J. P. (2013). Neural control of chronic stress adaptation. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 7, 61.
  3. Shields, G. S., Sazma, M. A., & Yonelinas, A. P. (2016). The effects of acute stress on core executive functions: A meta-analysis and comparison with cortisol. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 68, 651-668.
  4. Wirtz, P. H., & von Känel, R. (2017). Psychological stress, inflammation, and coronary heart disease. Current cardiology reports, 19(11), 1-10.