What Color Represents Stress? (Red as a Symbol of Stress)

what color represents stress

A person who feels stressed also feels irritable, angry, frustrated, and anxious. All these feelings can be represented by the color red.

Stress is commonly experienced in high pressure situations, usually associated with work. It can also happen when a person deals with changes or situations that causes him to feel threatened, insecure, or burdened.

To represent these emotions in a visual medium, you can use red colors and tones, which will help communicate to an audience the message that this is a high-stress situation.

Red As The Color Of Stress

red color meaning

Red is an intense color that reminds people of blood and passion. It is strong, aggressive, invigorating, and stimulating, that it why it is used in warning signs and traffic signals.

Physically, it can induce reactions in the body that are similar to stress responses, such as increased heart rate, higher body temperature, and heightened senses.

The color also has positive characteristics, as it is also used to represent love, sexuality, power, motivation, and confidence.

But when used aggressively, red often represents anger, violence, and danger. It is the color of fire, and has the ability to immediately grab attention, which makes it useful when used to warn people of hazardous situations.

Studies have proven the effect of red on people’s mood, emotional state, and stress response.

In one study, people who have been exposed to red shades, such as staying in a red room, were found to have experienced more physical and emotional stimulation compared to people who stayed in other rooms.

The people in one study were asked to answer a questionnaire called DASS (Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale) to determine their body’s stress response to each color.

It was found that both men and women who were exposed to red for a considerable amount of time tended to get higher scores in the stress rating.

stress color symbolism

Other studies have found that red can also intensify feelings of anger and distress more than any other color. It has the same effect with danger and caution.

Red makes people more wary and alert, thus increasing their body’s speed and strength compared to normal situations. This makes red useful for sports or situations that require sudden bursts of strength such as sprints, weightlifting, or long jump.

But it could be detrimental for activities that require endurance and longevity, such as basketball, marathon, or cycling.

There are many phrases and idioms in the English language that relate red to stress, danger, or pressure. Some of these are:

  • To Be red in the face describes a person who has been humiliated or is going through serious physical or mental strain that blood seemed to have rushed to his head, making his face look flushed.
  • Like a red flag to a bull indicates that someone or something is being provocative, which can trigger annoyance, anger, or violence from another person.
  • Red letter day is a significant event that is worth remembering, usually because something exciting is going to happen or has already happened.
  • Seeing red describes a state of extreme anger and violence that compromises one’s ability to think rationally.
  • Red light as in the traffic sign, but can also be used in other situations to indicate that it is the time to stop.
  • In the red means losing money, submerged by debts, or on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • Red alert is the highest level of caution that needs to be implemented, usually in a state of emergency, or in the face of imminent threat and danger.
  • Paint the town red describes going on an enjoyment spree, having fun in an unrestrained and unrestricted manner.
  • Red Flag refers to behavior or factors observed in people and situations that serve as warnings of potential danger or those that might cause problems in the future.
  • Red Mist or Red Haze indicates a state of extreme excitement, passion, or anger that prevents one from seeing and evaluating a situation clearly.
  • Caught red-handed refers to someone who was caught in the act while doing something wrong or illegal, as an allusion of having blood on one’s hands.
  • Red-blooded refers to someone, usually a male, who is known to be passionate, aggressive, and easily excitable.

Red in Pop Culture


Red is a common theme in pop culture to indicate love, passion, and sexuality. It is also used to indicate violence, bloody death, anger, and aggression.

Some superheroes also use red as their main color to signify their speed and power.

Several movies have used red to hint at war and violence, such as splashes of blood or using red accents in the story setting.

Others have used red for both the main characters and the villains to drive the story telling in an aggressive and exciting direction. Here are some famous characters that are depicted in red to indicate stress, anger, pressure, power, speed, or authority :

  • The personification of Anger in the movie “Inside Out” is a red character with fire on his head.
  • Flash in the comic books and movies for “Justice League” wears a red superhero costume and is said to be the fastest man alive.
  • Daredevil in the “Marvel Universe” also wears a red costume, and is an athlete and gymnast who displays incredible speed and endurance.
  • Optimus Prime, the leader of the “Transformers” have red accents on his body
  • Carnage, a super villain in the “Marvel Universe” has a red body and is described to have superhuman abilities
  • Red Skull, another super villain in the “Marvel Universe” wears a red skull mask to intimidate and oppress his victims.

What is Stress?

colors of stress

Although stress has a negative connotation and something that people usually do not want to experience, it actually serves a purpose. It is the body’s warning that something in the environment or the situation has the potential to cause harm or danger.

This is the fight or flight response that occurs naturally as part of the human instinct of self-preservation.

When a person is in a stressful situation, their body releases hormones that work to protect the body. This places you on alert, which enables you to accomplish things that it would not be able to do under normal circumstances, such as running faster, or carrying heavy loads.

stress symbolism

It is a temporary situation that helps the person escape from danger or achieve remarkable feats, after which the body resumes its normal state.

However, there are times when stressful periods are extended or occurs too often, and the body remains on an alert state for a long time. When this happens, the body can break down and a person can suffer from permanent illnesses both physically and mentally.


Stress is a natural reaction of the body in response to external danger or pressure. It enables the body to prepare itself to either fight it out or to escape in the interest of self-preservation.

Thus, stress is not intrinsically a bad thing if only experienced occasionally. However, long-term stress can have lasting harmful effect on physical and mental health, and must be addressed and avoided.

Red is the color that is strongly associated to stress because it triggers similar responses in the body. It can agitate, energize, motivate, and push a person to perform at better than normal levels.

However, this reaction only lasts for a short time and cannot be relied on for sustained periods.

The color red can be strategically used to induce greater energy and power in the body if the situation calls for it. But people who are already feeling stressed, tired, or pressured should avoid long exposure to red colors to avoid aggravating their condition.