Manifestations of Work Stress

Stress is a set of potentially pathogenic (disease-inducing) mechanisms. Its end results may include disease and death. The mechanisms can be categorized under the following headings but are usually concurrent and tightly interwoven.

Emotional manifestations
Included here are reactions of anxiety and depression, and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Being exposed to work-related stressors, many workers react with some degree of feelings such as these. If stressor exposure is intense, often repeated or long lasting, and/or if the exposed worker is vulnerable to such exposures, his or her emotional reactions may be influenced accordingly. The temporary anxiety and/or depression grow deeper or more long lasting and may cross over the border to disease. In addition, such an emotional state may increase the worker’s propensity to interpret his or her conditions of work as noxious and his or her reactions to them as indicative of ill health.

Cognitive manifestations
Under conditions of work-related stress, many workers find it difficult to concentrate, recollect, learn new things, be creative, and make decisions. Again, if pronounced, such reactions may develop into a dysfunctional state, directly or through one’s cognitive interpretation of the work context and one’s reactions to it.

Behavioral manifestations
Exposure to work-related and other stressors can trigger pathogenic health-related behaviors. Some workers use alcohol as a way to unwind, or they start (or increase) smoking (stress smoking). Others seek comfort in overeating (increasing the risk of obesity and subsequently of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes), in drugs, or take unnecessary risks at work or in traffic. Aggressive, violent or other types of antisocial behavior may be another outlet chosen. Many of these reactions can lead to accidents, disease and premature death.


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