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Stress as a Subjective Experience

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 08:17 AM
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Stress as a subjective experience and its effects on mental and physical health

Stress commonly refers to persons experiences of daily problems as well as stressful life events (Cronqvist, 1997). Stress, for our purposes, can be considered as the following: a state of arousal brought about by socioenvironmental demands, when an individual perceives that he/she may have trouble with, or be unable to deal with these demands, stress is the result (Aneshensel, 1992). Importantly the cognitive appraisal of a stressful situation or event is unique to that person experiencing said event (Cronqvist, 1997). Thus stress or the experience of stress is not merely a reflection of ones external environment, but is also heavily dependant on the unique characteristics of the individual i.e. their needs, values and perceptions, (Aneshensel, 1992) as well as resources available to the said individual for coping i.e. coping strategies, social support etc. (Bovier, 2004).

Thus stress is a highly subjective experience, which makes it a rather difficult concept to quantify. On one hand, the character of a person, their life experience, as well as their emotional maturity, affects the way stress is experienced by an individual (Weiten, 2001). On the other hand, the type of stressors; the demand those stressors require as perceived by the individual as well as the physiological response to stress   experienced by the individual, also affect the way stress is perceived, experienced and dealt with, on an individual level (Bovier, 2004).

Stress has both emotional (psychological) and physiological effects (Weiten, 2001). The physiological effects or response to stress has three major components.

The first, commonly documented and familiar component is what is known as the “fight or flight response” (Weiten, 2001). This can most simply be described as the stimulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) via the amygdala of the limbic...


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