To cause strain, anxiety, or suffering to. See Synonyms at trouble. Law To hold the property of (a person) against the payment of debts. To mar or otherwise treat (an object or fabric, for example) to give the appearance of an antique or of heavy prior use: "There are the fakes\u2014new rugs which have been intentionally distressed for an older look\u201d ( Hatfield MA Valley Advocate). Archaic To constrain or overcome by harassment. Anxiety or mental suffering. Severe strain resulting from exhaustion or an accident. Acute physical discomfort. Physical deterioration, as of a highway, caused by hard use over time: pavement distress. The condition of being in need of immediate assistance: a motorist in distress. Law The act of distraining or seizing to compel payment. Law The goods thus seized.