Several studies report on the presence of external stress and life events prior to the onset and exacerbation of psychotic illness. However, the relationship between the subjective appraisal of stress at first presentation with psychosis is less well understood. This paper reports on the relationship between the individual perception of stress and symptomatology in individuals with first-episode psychosis at presentation to community mental health services. We assessed 123 individuals using standardized measures of symptoms, quality of life, perceived stress, global functioning, and duration of untreated psychosis. At first presentation, people with more depressive symptoms and reduced overall functioning were more likely to report increased levels of perceived stress. In addition, people with less positive symptoms of psychosis were experiencing higher levels of subjective stress. In terms of stress vulnerability models, it is important to consider how functioning and symptoms can influence individual appraisal of stress. Acknowledging this interaction can provide opportunities for nursing interventions directed at enhancing adaptive coping and provide benchmarks for assessing the effectiveness of nursing interventions provided in the acute phase of psychosis. Further research should focus on the interaction between symptoms and individually-appraised stress over time.