Acute or Chronic Stress
Stressors can also be defined as short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic).
Acute Stress. Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the fight or flight response. The threat can be any situation that is experienced, even subconsciously or falsely, as a danger.
Common acute stressors include:
- infection, and
- imagining a threat or remembering a dangerous event.
Under most circumstances, once the acute threat has passed, the response becomes inactivated and levels of stress hormones return to normal, a condition called the relaxation response.
Chronic Stress. Frequently, however, modern life poses on-going stressful situations that are not short-lived and the urge to act (to fight or to flee) must be suppressed. Stress, then, becomes chronic. Common chronic stressors include:
- on-going highly pressured work,
- long-term relationship problems,
- loneliness, and
- persistent financial worries.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD