[Fr. estresse, narrowness]
1. Any physical, physiological, or psychological force that disturbs equilibrium.
2. The consequences of forces that disturb equilibrium.
3. Force applied per unit area. In the physical sciences, stresses include forces that deform or damage materials, such as impact, shear, torsion, compression, and tension. These physical stresses are particularly important in certain branches of health care, e.g., dentistry or orthopedic surgery, and in biotechnology industries, e.g., in the design and use of prostheses, grafts, and perfusion pumps.
Physiological stresses include agents that upset homeostasis, such as infection, injury, disease, internal organ pressures, or psychic strain.
In psychology, stresses include perceptions, emotions, anxieties, and interpersonal, social, or economic events that are considered threatening to one's physical health, personal safety, or well-being. Marital discord; conflicts with others; battle, torture, or abuse; bankruptcy; incarceration; health care crises; and self-doubt are all examples of conditions that increase psychic stresses. The response of an organism or material to stress is known as adaptation.
SEE: adaptation; SEE: anxiety; SEE: fracture; SEE: homeostasis; SEE: law of Laplace; SEE: relaxation response
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