In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. A 2020 survey, near the beginning of the COVID pandemic estimated the prevalence of symptoms of depression was 28% and symptoms of anxiety 21%.
Stress levels also impact on physical health and can cause an emotional or physical reaction. The impact of the event depends on whether one views the event as positive or negative. When stress levels are high or chronic, it is common for physical symptoms (headaches, backaches), psychological symptoms (anxiety, anger) and relational issues (conflict, disconnection) to emerge.
Stress and Couples
A classic study of 82 couples demonstrated how high stress levels can negatively impact a relationship (Neff & Karney, 2009). The greater the stress levels, the more strongly partners react to the normal ups and downs of life. In other words, when stress levels are high, we experience perceived stress more intensely.
The study also suggests that high stress levels make it more difficult to effectively use one’s positive relationship skills such as communication and conflict resolution abilities.
Because high stress negatively colours a couple’s perceptions of their relationship, couples experiencing prolonged exposure to stress are more likely to evaluate their relationship negatively when they are.
- Australian Psychological Society (2014): www.psychology.org.au
- Fisher, J. Tran, T., Hammarberg, K., Sastry, J., Nguyen, H., Rowe, H., Popplestone, S., Stocker, R., Stubber, C., and Kirkman, M. (2020): Mental health of people in Australia in the first month of COVID‐19 restrictions: a national survey: Med J Aust 2020; 213 (10): 458-464.
- Neff, L.A., and Karney, B.R., (2009). Stress and reactivity to daily relationship experiences: How stress hinders adaptive processes in marriage. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97 (3), 435-450.
Tune in next week for part 3.
Do you need help with an issue or problem? Our approach helps to generate deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations can restore insight and understanding about one another.