Distress, Eustress, and Stress

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Distress," "Eustress," and "Stress"?

"Distress," "eustress," and "stress" are different types of stress.
  • "Distress" is extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.
    • I want to live in a place where strangers rush to help someone in distress. correct tick (Writer Ian Mcewan)
  • "Stress" is something that causes a state of strain or tension. It can also mean to put emphasis or importance on something.
    • God will never give you anything you can't handle, so don't give in to stress. correct tick (Singer Kelly Clarkson)
  • "Eustress" is beneficial stress.
    • When we play games, we go into a psychological state called eustress, or positive stress. Like negative stress, eustress gets our adrenaline up and quickens our breathing rate and pulse. correct tick (Game designer Jane McGonigal)
distress, stress, and eustress

More about "Distress," "Eustress," and "Stress"


"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).

Example sentences with "distress":
  • The distress in her voice was highly noticeable. correct tick
  • The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection. correct tick (Political activist 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. correct tick (Film director Leo McCarey)
  • (Here, distress is a verb.)


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

Example sentences with "eustress":
  • Eustress fosters challenge and motivation since the goal is in sight. correct tick
  • Hargrove, Nelson, and Cooper described eustress as being focused on a challenge, fully present, and exhilarated. correct tick


The word stress has three common meanings:

(1) 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.)

(2) 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.)

(3) To cause mental or emotional tension (usually resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances).

  • I am stressing over the party. correct tick
  • (Here, "stress" is a verb.)
  • That's what it is to be a grandma. All fun and no stress. correct tick (Singer Marie Osmond)
  • (Here, "stress" is a noun.)

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