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Stress vs. Tension: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sumera Saeed || By Sawaira Riaz || Updated on October 3, 2023
"Stress" generally refers to mental, emotional, or physical strain or tension, while "Tension" often pertains to a strained state or condition resulting from forces acting in opposition.

Key Differences

"Stress" can manifest in various forms, be it emotional stress due to work or physical stress experienced in materials like steel. "Tension," on the other hand, is often used to describe a situation or substance being pulled tight, either literally or metaphorically.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023
"Stress" is a term that can relate to psychology, physiology, and even physics. In contrast, "Tension" commonly deals with the pulling force exerted on something, whether it's a rope or a relationship.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023
"Stress" often has a broader application, including internal pressures, whether emotional, mental, or physical. "Tension" is more externally situational, generally referring to opposing forces or elements that create a tight or strained condition.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023
While "Stress" can describe the internal state of an individual or material, "Tension" is often the external situation or condition that may result in stress.
Harlon Moss
Sep 20, 2023
Both "Stress" and "Tension" are terms that can be used in multiple contexts, but while stress is more about the internal experience or the effect, tension is often about the cause or the external environment.
Aimie Carlson
Sep 20, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Context

Broader applications
More specific situations
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

Domain

Emotional, Physical
Mechanical, Relational
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Sep 20, 2023

Directionality

Internal experience
External forces
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Sep 20, 2023

Function

Effect
Cause
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Sep 20, 2023

Emotional Component

Often present
May or may not be
Aimie Carlson
Sep 20, 2023
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Stress and Tension Definitions

Stress

Physical force
The stress on the bridge raises safety concerns.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

Tension

Mechanical force
The tension in the rope was high.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

Stress

Mental pressure
Stress before exams is common.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

Tension

Electrical potential
Voltage causes electrical tension.
Aimie Carlson
Sep 20, 2023

Stress

Importance, significance, or emphasis placed on something.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Situational strain
Tensions rose during the meeting.
Aimie Carlson
Sep 20, 2023

Stress

The relative force with which a sound or syllable is spoken.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

The act or process of stretching something tight.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

The emphasis placed on the sound or syllable spoken most forcefully in a word or phrase.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

The condition of so being stretched; tautness.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

The relative force of sound or emphasis given a syllable or word in accordance with a metrical pattern.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

A force tending to stretch or elongate something.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

A syllable having strong relative emphasis in a metrical pattern.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

A measure of such a force
A tension on the cable of 50 pounds.
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Apr 24, 2023

Stress

An accent or mark representing such emphasis or force.
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Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Mental, emotional, or nervous strain
Working under great tension to make a deadline.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

The internal distribution of force per unit area within a body subject to an applied force or system of forces.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Barely controlled hostility or a strained relationship between people or groups
The dangerous tension between opposing military powers.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

The internal resistance of a body to such an applied force or system of forces.
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Apr 24, 2023

Tension

A balanced relation between strongly opposing elements
"the continuing, and essential, tension between two of the three branches of government, judicial and legislative" (Haynes Johnson).
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

A condition of extreme difficulty, pressure, or strain
"He presided over the economy during the period of its greatest stress and danger" (Robert J. Samuelson).
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

The interplay of conflicting elements in a piece of literature, especially a poem.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

A condition of physiological or psychological disturbance to the normal functioning or well-being of an organism, occurring as a response to any of various environmental or psychosocial stimuli. Signs and symptoms of stress in humans include increased blood pressure, insomnia, and irritability.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

A device for regulating tautness, especially a device that controls the tautness of thread on a sewing machine or loom.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

A stimulus or circumstance causing such a condition
Couldn't stand the stresses of the job and quit.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

(Electricity) Voltage or potential; electromotive force.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

To place emphasis on
Stressed basic fire safety in her talk.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

To subject to tension; tighten.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

To give prominence of sound to (a syllable or word) in pronouncing or in accordance with a metrical pattern.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

The condition of being held in a state between two or more forces, which are acting in opposition to each other.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(Informal) To subject to physiological or mental stress or strain. Often used with out
The pressure of the deadline is really stressing me out.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Psychological state of being tense.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

To subject to mechanical pressure or force.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

A feeling of nervousness, excitement, or fear that is created in a movie, book, etc.; suspense.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

To undergo physiological or mental stress, as from working too much. Often used with out.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

State of an elastic object which is stretched in a way which increases its length.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(biology) A physical, chemical, infective agent aggressing an organism.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Force transmitted through a rope, string, cable, or similar object (used with prepositions on, in, or of, e.g., "The tension in the cable is 1000 N", to convey that the same magnitude of force applies to objects attached to both ends).
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(biology) Aggression toward an organism resulting in a response in an attempt to restore previous conditions.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Voltage. Usually only the terms low tension, high tension, and extra-high tension, and the abbreviations LT, HT, and EHT are used. They are not precisely defined; LT is normally a few volts, HT a few hundreds of volts, and EHT thousands of volts.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

The internal distribution of force across a small boundary per unit area of that boundary (pressure) within a body. It causes strain or deformation and is typically symbolised by σ or τ.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

To place an object in tension, to pull or place strain on.
We tensioned the cable until it snapped.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Force externally applied to a body which cause internal stress within the body.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

The act of stretching or straining; the state of being stretched or strained to stiffness; the state of being bent strained; as, the tension of the muscles, tension of the larynx.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(uncountable) Emotional pressure suffered by a human being or other animal.
Go easy on him, he's been under a lot of stress lately.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Fig.: Extreme strain of mind or excitement of feeling; intense effort.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

A suprasegmental feature of a language having additional attention raised to a sound, word or word group by means of of loudness, duration or pitch; phonological prominence.
Some people put the stress on the first syllable of “controversy”; others put it on the second.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

The degree of stretching to which a wire, cord, piece of timber, or the like, is strained by drawing it in the direction of its length; strain.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

The suprasegmental feature of a language having additional attention raised to a sound by means of of loudness and/or duration; phonological prominence phonetically achieved by means of dynamics as distinct from pitch.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

The force by which a part is pulled when forming part of any system in equilibrium or in motion; as, the tension of a srting supporting a weight equals that weight.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(uncountable) Emphasis placed on a particular point in an argument or discussion (whether spoken or written).
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

A device for checking the delivery of the thread in a sewing machine, so as to give the stitch the required degree of tightness.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Obsolete form of distress
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Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Expansive force; the force with which the particles of a body, as a gas, tend to recede from each other and occupy a larger space; elastic force; elasticity; as, the tension of vapor; the tension of air.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Distress; the act of distraining; also, the thing distrained.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

The quality in consequence of which an electric charge tends to discharge itself, as into the air by a spark, or to pass from a body of greater to one of less electrical potential. It varies as the quantity of electricity upon a given area.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(transitive) To apply force to (a body or structure) causing strain.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Feelings of hostility that are not manifest;
He could sense her latent hostility to him
The diplomats' first concern was to reduce international tensions
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(transitive) To apply emotional pressure to (a person or animal).
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

(psychology) a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense;
He suffered from fatigue and emotional tension
Stress is a vasoconstrictor
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

To suffer stress; to worry or be agitated.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

The physical condition of being stretched or strained;
It places great tension on the leg muscles
He could feel the tenseness of her body
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(transitive) To emphasise (a syllable of a word).
“Emphasis” is stressed on the first syllable, but “emphatic” is stressed on the second.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

A balance between and interplay of opposing elements or tendencies (especially in art or literature);
There is a tension created between narrative time and movie time
There is a tension between these approaches to understanding history
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(transitive) To emphasise (words in speaking).
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Apr 24, 2023

Tension

(physics) a stress that produces an elongation of an elastic physical body;
The direction of maximum tension moves asymptotically toward the direction of the shear
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(transitive) To emphasise (a point) in an argument or discussion.
I must stress that this information is given in strict confidence.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

The action of stretching something tight;
Tension holds the belt in the pulleys
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Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Distress.
Sad hersal of his heavy stress.
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Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Emotional strain
The tension between them was palpable.
Sara Rehman
Sep 20, 2023

Stress

Pressure, strain; - used chiefly of immaterial things; except in mechanics; hence, urgency; importance; weight; significance.
The faculties of the mind are improved by exercise, yet they must not be put to a stress beyond their strength.
A body may as well lay too little as too much stress upon a dream.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Tension

Musical dissonance
Tension in the chords resolved at the end.
Janet White
Sep 20, 2023

Stress

The force, or combination of forces, which produces a strain; force exerted in any direction or manner between contiguous bodies, or parts of bodies, and taking specific names according to its direction, or mode of action, as thrust or pressure, pull or tension, shear or tangential stress.
Stress is the mutual action between portions of matter.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Force of utterance expended upon words or syllables. Stress is in English the chief element in accent and is one of the most important in emphasis. See Guide to pronunciation, 31-35.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Distress; the act of distraining; also, the thing distrained.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

To press; to urge; to distress; to put to difficulties.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

To subject to stress, pressure, or strain.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

To subject to phonetic stress; to accent.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

To place emphasis on; to make emphatic; emphasize.
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

The relative prominence of a syllable or musical note (especially with regard to stress or pitch);
He put the stress on the wrong syllable
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(psychology) a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense;
He suffered from fatigue and emotional tension
Stress is a vasoconstrictor
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

(physics) force that produces strain on a physical body;
The intensity of stress is expressed in units of force divided by units of area
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Special emphasis attached to something;
The stress was more on accuracy than on speed
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Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension;
She endured the stresses and strains of life
He presided over the economy during the period of the greatest stress and danger
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Apr 24, 2023

Stress

To stress, single out as important;
Dr. Jones emphasizes exercise in addition to a change in diet
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Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Put stress on; utter with an accent;
In Farsi, you accent the last syllable of each word
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Test the limits of;
You are trying my patience!
Sawaira Riaz
Apr 24, 2023

Stress

Emotional strain
The stress of the job is getting to him.
Sara Rehman
Sep 20, 2023

Stress

Intensity in language
The word object has stress on the first syllable.
Janet White
Sep 20, 2023

Stress

Deformation force
Stress can cause materials to break.
Aimie Carlson
Sep 20, 2023

FAQs

What is Tension?

Tension refers to a state of being stretched tight.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

Can Stress cause Tension?

Yes, stress can lead to tension in various contexts.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

How is Tension measured?

As a force in newtons in mechanical contexts.
Janet White
Sep 20, 2023

Is Stress a force?

In physics, yes; in psychology, it's a form of strain.
Janet White
Sep 20, 2023

Is Tension a force?

In mechanical contexts, yes.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

Is Stress always emotional?

No, stress can also be physical or mental.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

How is Stress measured?

In psychology, through questionnaires; in physics, as force per unit area.
Janet White
Sep 20, 2023

What is Stress?

Stress refers to mental, emotional, or physical strain.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

Is Tension always physical?

No, it can be emotional or situational.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

Can you have Tension without Stress?

Yes, tension can exist without causing stress.
Aimie Carlson
Sep 20, 2023

Can Tension cause Stress?

Yes, tension can lead to stress, particularly emotional stress.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

Is Stress always negative?

No, there's positive stress known as eustress.
Sawaira Riaz
Sep 20, 2023

Can you have Stress without Tension?

Yes, one can experience stress without overt tension.
Sara Rehman
Sep 20, 2023

Is Tension always negative?

Not necessarily, it can also be functional, as in music.
Sara Rehman
Sep 20, 2023

Are Stress and Tension interchangeable?

They are related but not usually interchangeable, as they often refer to different aspects of strain or force.
Aimie Carlson
Sep 20, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.

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