Internal Sources of Stress

Exposure to difficult circumstances doesn’t produce stress by itself. Rather, stress occurs when people experience frustration, conflict, or pressure:

  • Frustration is the experience of being thwarted when trying to achieve a goal.

Example: A student worked very hard on a term paper with the hope of getting an A but ends up with a B.

  • Conflict occurs when people have two or more incompatible desires or motives. Conflict can occur in three forms:
  1. The approach-approach conflict, the least stressful, occurs when people try to choose between two desirable alternatives.

Example: A student tries to decide between two interesting classes.

  1. The approach-avoidance conflict, typically more stressful and quite common, occurs when people must decide whether to do something that has both positive and negative aspects.

Example: A boy invites a girl to a party. She finds him attractive, but going to the party means she won’t have time to study for one of her final exams.

  1. The avoidance-avoidance conflict, also typically stressful, occurs when people have to choose between two undesirable options.

Example: Because of his financial situation, a man might have to choose whether to keep his nice-looking car, which breaks down frequently, or buy a badly dented, but reliable, used one.

  • Pressure occurs when people feel compelled to behave in a particular way because of expectations set by themselves or others.

Example: A high school student wants to be accepted by the popular crowd at school, so she tries hard to distance herself from her old friends because the popular crowd considers them geeky or undesirable.

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