Lecture #10 (03/16/2009)
Personality and Health
What is Stress?
Stress is the subjective response, Stressor is the event that causes stress
Subjective response to life events (so you can have same stressor and different responses to that
Acute, episodic acute, traumatic, chronic stressors
Acute stressors (one time, short duration stressors; don’t last long) this is what most people
would call stress Sudden onset of psychological or physical demands
Episodic acute stressor would refer to a reoccurring form of acute stress (for example, when I
come home neighbour has a dog, and it barks. It lasts for a short time but it happens repeatedly
and it’s predictable and it’s not controllable. Deal with it for a short time, repeatedly.
Traumatic stressor is another form of an acute stressor but it is a very severe acute stressor. But
it differs from acute stressor, cuz of syndrome of responses that occurs from it. (Ex Post-
traumatic stress disorder).
Chronic stressors are also serious forms of stress, because they are constant. They may be
aspects of our social life or aspects of our physical life. (guy injured his rotator cuff).
Stress does not just originate from negative life experiences. When we talk about stress, it can
also derive from subjectively positive events. Key is different perceivers will have different
assessments of these events.
For ex. University Graduations, good thing but it’s also stressful.
Weddings can be exciting and stressful.
Children lots of positive feelings and benefits, but it costs money and your responsible for
Home buying is a stressful process
Birthday is fun time, but older we get its more a sign of our mortality than anything else.
Can stem from “negative” and “positive” events
Perceivers will likely differ in their assessments
Key here is that any event positive or negative can be stressful for right perceiver
Stress is an additive problem
Stress and Immune Function Direct experimental evidence that long-term stress reduces immune function in animals:
Wound healing takes longer
Susceptibility to flu is higher
Correlational research on stress in humans: is lacking, not ethical to do these kind of studies on
People usually deal well with short-term stressors
Ethically problematic to induce long-term stress
Hans Selye (1907-1982)
Derived the General Adaptation Syndrome
General Adaptation Syndrome model of stress resistance.
What happens here is, there is a capability within the body to handle stress. And it’s in our
Sympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic nervous system arouses the body, motivating motor
actions. Reducing non-essential processing things like digestion and excretion. Heart rate
increases, breathing rate increases.
Parasympathetic NS responsible for calming things down.
First stage of exposure to stressors, we see what is called an alarm response; the body prepares
itself for action, at first body is not in a resistance state. Decision state of the body, is it
appropriate to continue this response.
Then we see a climbing to some plateau, if stressor continues to be present the body resists at an
above average rate. But overtime, cuz body has limited resources, we eventually hit an
exhaustion stage, heavy depletion of resources. It’s not that the immune function is not working,
but its working over capacity.
In Exhaustion state, the body is working as hard as it can but because of the resources at this
point its over taxing the body. Its at this stage, the exhaustion stage that we start to see some
somatic problems, (eg. breakdown of tissues and excesses of chemicals/waste products).
People exposed to chronic stress, change their behavior in weird ways, eat differently, sleep in
odd patterns. Conversational styles are different. And this is because the entire body is
motivating itself to action. And when its exhausted the entire body is exhausted. And even if
sometime during our exhaustion state the stressor leaves, we will still be in a below average
resistance state for some time. So if another stressor than appears (2 replace one that left or add
one to one that is already present), body will be even more poor-equipped than usual to deal
with that stressor. So to the extent that stress is additive, a new stressor creates more stress, more stressors create
Alarm: Fight-or-flight (sympathetic nervous system)
Resistance: Resources used at above-average rate
Exhaustion: Heavy depletion of resources
Stress Among Students
Look at students in high/low levels of stress and look at their immune responses.
Glaser et al. (1993) took blood samples from healthy medical students who were seropositive for
the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) at two times:
One month before a block of examinations
On the last day of the block of examinations
For both samples, compared memory T-cell proliferative responses to EBV polypeptides
EBV causes mononucleosis, and may play roles in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and certain
Virus is a long protein chain, protein chains made up of petides.
T-cells are form of white blood cells, these T-Cells