Before we describe the physical, mental and behavioural signs and symptoms of distress, you can assess some of your own signs and symptoms by completing the questionnaire on page 62. For this questionnaire we have selected some of the more usually manifested signs and symptoms.
The ability to recognize and monitor the signs and symptoms of your stress response activity is a crucial skill in managing stress. Select the three highest scoring items and write these in the box on page 103. This will help remind you what to look for as you monitor your body’s physical activity and your behaviour.
The brief questionnaire you have just completed does not address all the signs and symptoms, so we give a more comprehensive list below. Study the list so you are aware of the range of the signs and symptoms of distress.
Signs of distress
Aware of heart beating, palpitations
Breathlessness, lump in the throat, rapid shallow breathing
Dry mouth, butterflies’ in stomach, indigestion, nausea
Diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence
General muscle tenseness particularly of the jaws, grinding of teeth
Clenched fists, hunched shoulders, general muscle aches and pains, cramps
Restlessness, hyperactive, nail biting, finger drumming, foot tapping, hands shaking
Tired, fatigued, lethargic, exhausted, sleep difficulties, feeling faint, headaches, frequent illnesses such as colds
Sweaty especially palms and upper lip, hot flushed feeling
Cold hands and feet
Frequent desire to urinate
Overeating, loss of appetite, increase cigarette smoking
Increased alcohol consumption, loss of interest in sex
Distressed, worried, upset, tearful, deflated, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, hysterical, withdrawn, feeling unable to cope, anxious, depressed
Impatient, easily irritated and aggravated, angry, hostile, aggressive
Frustrated, bored, inadequate, guilty, rejected, neglected, insecure, vulnerable
Loss of interest in self-appearance, health, diet, sex; low self-esteem, and loss of interest in others
Polyphasic (doing too many things at once), rushed
Failing to finish tasks before moving onto the next
Difficulty in thinking clearly, concentrating and making decisions, forgetful, lack of creativity, irrational; procrastinating, difficulty in starting to do things
Prone to make mistakes and having accidents
Having so much to do and not knowing where to start so ending up doing nothing or going from task to task and not completing anything
Hypercritical, inflexible, unreasonable, over-reactive, nonproductive, poor efficiency
You should note that this list is not exhaustive and some of the mental signs could be regarded as physical signs and vice-versa.