The Psychological Effects of Stress

In this section we look at the psychological effects of stress and the impact they can have. First, though, a short definition:


"the human faculty for thought, judgment, and emotion; the mental life, including both conscious and unconscious processes; the mind in its totality, as distinguished from the body"


"the soul or self"

Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. © 2007 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved. Adapted from

So thought, judgment and emotion. How are they affected by the psychological effects of stress?

Note that there are many definitions out there - I just like working with the medical ones, since I find definitions such as "soul and mind" too loose.

Processes Affected by the Psychological Effects of Stress Psychological Effects

It is clear to see that the three may very well be interacting or affecting each other - see my illustration to the left

So an emotion may affect how you think about a decision you have to make, and that can affect you judgment. So the psychological effects of stress affect the entire process of thinking (also known as cognitive process)

Let's look at the psychological effects of stress a bit more...


Stress causes all sorts of emotions to build up almost instantly. A negative feeling you normally are able to control, can burst out suddenly and unexpected.

Stress often causes a more negative than positive feeling, you may feel

  • Sadness
  • Despair
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
These were just some of the common emotional responses that you can experience as psychological effects. Click here for more on stress anxiety and learn how to fight it.

I don't want to sound like an all-out hippie, but listen to your body. Notice what your emotions tell you. Write them down on a piece of paper or download The Stressor Chart to help you map your causes of stress.


Thoughts can also come before emotions. They may trigger an emotional response as well.

Now, I know that asking you to "think about what you are thinking", is hard. But that is however what we need to do. It is known that negative people (pessimists) are more prone to stress and they live shorter!

A good philosophy I use is Loretta Laroche's saying:

If you expect the worst and get the worst, you suffer twice. If you expect the best and get the worst, you only suffer once.

... So if you are struggling with general negativity towards yourself and the world around you, try that simple mantra. Think positively! But back to the theme.

Psychological Stress From An Upcomming Event

Thoughts are wild and seem to appear out of nowhere! If you are thinking a lot about an upcoming event, let's say a football game, and you are nervous, try and visualize the worst possible scenario... no I'm serious! If you imagine the worst that can happen, you are putting fences up in your mind. You will be able to see the end of it so to speak.

After that imagine two of the best scenarios. For example: You may make 3 touchdowns in the first and 5 in the second. What this will do for you is making you see more good outcomes, and it is a very effective coping technique.

Stress From Negative Thoughts

Stress Tip

Mentally picture what you are saying to yourself

As said; one of th psychological effects of stress can sometimes be negative thoughts. If you are thinking the same thing to yourself over and over again, you will start to believe it, even if it isn't true. If your thoughts are more negative or get annoyed a lot, you can try the following.

Try and picture your thoughts and overdo it or use associations:

If in traffic you think "Jesus, what a snail" or "Get a move on! You JERK": Imagine what would happen if that car in front of you was actually a giant snail! Or if slow person was really beef JERKy…

I use this a lot in supermarket lines - guess why ;)

You can learn more about the psychological effects of stress and how to reduce stress in this section.


The emotions and thoughts that you carry around every day affect how you act. And so, your judgment is affected. This should be an obvious fact, and there is nothing let than to say: You have to observe, recognize and realize that you don't have to be stressed.

Most Common Long Term Psychological Effects of Stress

The most common long term effects only appear if you have lived with a high level of stress or many stressors in your life for some time. You are past your stress comfort zone.

Long term exposure to pressure often leads to

  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
You can read more about Anxiety and the many other signs of stress here!