Stress affects millions of people around the world on a daily basis. Stress can either be caused by a good or bad experience, this can either negatively or positively affect the individual. Stress can be caused due to many different forms including post-traumatic stress, anxiety disorder, depression, physical, social and emotional stresses. This can occur because of situations such as sport, school, or work. This type of stress occurs due to pressures from coaches, parents, partners, family, or friends to reach a certain score or meet a deadline by a specific date or time, and in elite sports, the above come into factor as well as the public’s eye and quite commonly the persons own perspective of themselves. Almost half of the athletes will encounter stress in some form throughout their athletic career. A study conducted on Australian athletes found that 46% of them had at least one mental health issue such as an eating disorder (Gerber et al., 2018). Stress in athletes can often lead to burnout for a period of time or leaving the sport as a whole. Another big response to stress is the flight or fight. Hence this paper will discuss stress, what it is, the signs and symptoms along major models and theories.
Nearly every person will experience some form of stress at least once a week throughout their lives. Stress can be caused due to numerous different reasons and can come in many different forms. Someone fighting in a war may develop post-traumatic stress disorder whereas the next may be stressed over an exam and needing to get a certain mark for their future. Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the biggest forms of stress that can be very severe for some even affecting an individual’s day-to-day life. Although it is something severe it luckily does not affect many, approximately half of United States adults will experience a traumatic event at least once in their lives, however merely 10% of women and 5% of men will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Ozer & Weiss, 2004). Many people will develop partial post-traumatic stress disorder or significant clinical symptoms (Ozer & Weiss, 2004). Post-traumatic stress is caused due to extreme external stress like shell shock from war or sexual assault that causes a feeling of extreme fear, horror, or helplessness (Ozer & Weiss, 2004). This is due to the event causing near death, serious injury, or death. Stress is also very common in elite athletes and can also occur at the amateur level due to pressures of team selection, the demands of high training loads, conflicts, and uncontrollable events such as biological changes and injuries. Along with this are the internal demands caused by the pressures put on one’s self (Gerber et al., 2018). The internal stems from the pressure which then invoked consequences dependent on the appraisal process Gerber et al, 2018). Stress in sport can lead to burnout syndrome because the athlete has risky traits such as perfectionism, a lack of coping strategies, or a lack of multidimensional personality (Gerber et al., 2018).
Models and theories can be formed in both cognitive and emotional processes as well as biologically focused models. The most influential cognitive response-oriented by a trauma response and highlights the significance of beliefs and emotions linked about the world and themselves. It can also be associations of reminders of linking or thinking of the event through cognition, physiological and behavioral response (Ozer & Weiss, 2004). This can be seen through previous assumptions being shattered due to the event; thus, the world is not safe this then makes the victims thinking of the world needs to be adapted so the shattered assumptions can be made sense of and integrate the event. This can then create avoidance and intrusion to arise, which is usually painful as it requires remembering the trauma and the accompanying distress (Ozer & Weiss, 2004). Recovery doesn’t begin for this process until the issue can be tolerated without avoidance or being emotionally overwhelmed (Ozer & Weiss, 2004). Cognitive formation comes later on when the memory is invoked, this then creates links to information about the event a raises cognitive, affective, physiological, and behavioral responses. This is due to only the network being activated setting all the others off, because of this fear is invoked which means continued symptoms and repetition. Recovery for this doesn’t occur until the individual builds enough strength that associations to network components are decreased and a mixture of desensitization and substitution occurs. (Ozer & Weiss, 2004). Biological factors focus on psychophysiological arousals like reminders such as sounds, images, and scripts (Ozer & Weiss, 2004). Biological factor generates the feeling of fear which then in cause creates the flight or fight response. Athletes can also be heavily affected throughout their careers with stress. Along with the internal models for athletes discussed earlier, there is also a cognitive model of stress for an athlete faces stress when they are faced with harm, loss, threats, or challenges when this occurs actions happen between the individual and the environment, these actions indicate a balance of forces when can exceed the individual’s resources (Gerber et al., 2018). This then can end in negative consequences if they don’t meet or neutralize the demands (Gerber et al., 2018).
Looking for symptoms in someone that may be affected by stress is one of the hardest things as physically they could look perfectly fine however mentally they could be really struggling. Physical symptoms can often be missed or seen as occurring because of something else happening or going on around the individual. Physical symptoms can be however be some of the easiest to point out when looking to see if someone is stressed. However, the mental symptoms are not easily seen unless the individual opens up and expressed what they are feeling. Some physical symptoms include sweating, dilated pupils, and increased inspiration (Headspace, 2019). Mentally some of the early symptoms include struggling to concentrate and feeling overwhelmed (headspace, 2019), when this starts to occur it is the best time to seek help to assist with ensuring the issue doesn’t grow bigger. Conversely, symptoms will differ from person to person and dependant on what is causing their stress. Post-traumatic stress disorder has several different symptoms including involuntary re-experiencing of trauma such as nightmares or intrusive thoughts, avoidance of reminders and numbing of responsivity such as not being able to have feelings of love and increased arousal including difficulty sleeping and concentrating, exaggerated startle response, and being hypervigilance (Ozer & Weiss, 2004). In severe events that cause stress, the fight or flight response can play a large role. This occurs due to the need for survival, Harvard Medical School (2018) explains that it happens due to hormonal changes and physiological responses to aid someone to fight for their life and safety of fleeing the environment for safety. Athletes are some of the most common people to endure stress as it is what they make their money to live off of. Athletes with a low mental toughness are more likely to fall into stress due to it causing perfectionism, selection worries, and the pressure to meet the goal they have set (Gerber et al., 2018). Furthermore, if resilience is not present in the athlete this may lead to a mental health issue due to the high amount of stress the athlete is surrounded by Gerber et al., 2018).
To conclude stress is a very broad subject that involves so much with the human brain’s responses and the person’s surroundings due to a certain event. Almost everyone will experience some form of stress in their life whether is general day-to-day stress, stress from work or school to meet a deadline, or get a certain mark. Or some form of severe stress like post-traumatic stress disorder whereas during the event provokes the flight or fight response or an elite athlete dealing with the stress of competition of dealing with the worries of not being selected in a team, which could lead them to burnout syndrome that could, in the long run, see them drop out of their sport and be left with nothing. All of these can leave lasting impacts on someone’s life either negatively or positively.