Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

Distress, Eustress, and Stress

The Quick Answer
What are the differences between distress, stress, and eustress?
  • Distress is extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.
  • Stress is something that causes a state of strain or tension. It can also mean to put emphasis or importance on something.
  • Eustress is beneficial stress.

Distress, Stress, and Eustress


Distress refers to extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.

The word distress is usually seen as a noun, but it may also be used as a verb. There are different types of distress (e.g., financial distress, emotional distress).

  • The distress in her voice was highly noticeable.
  • The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection. (Thomas Paine)
  • I like a little bit of the fairy tale. Let others photograph the ugliness of the world. I don't want to distress people. (Leo McCarey)
  • (Here, distress is a verb.)


The word stress has more than one meaning:

To place particular emphasis or importance on something.
  • I can't stress this enough.
  • (Here, stress is a verb.)
  • Did you put enough stress on the importance of this task?
  • (Here, stress is a noun.)
To exert pressure or tension on a material.
  • The fabric looked stressed from being stretched.
  • (Here, stress is a verb.)
  • This looks like stress on the metal rod.
  • (Here, stress is a noun.)
To cause mental or emotional tension (usually resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances).
  • I am stressing over the party.
  • (Here, stress is a verb.)
  • That's what it is to be a grandma. All fun and no stress. (Marie Osmond)
  • (Here, stress is a noun.)


The noun eustress means beneficial stress. It can be either psychological or physical.

  • Eustress fosters challenge and motivation since the goal is in sight.
  • Hargrove, Nelson, and Cooper described eustress as being focused on a challenge, fully present, and exhilarated.
Interactive Test