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PSYCH 101 - Health Psychology

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University of Waterloo
Stephanie Denison

November 14 2013 Health Psychology Striking Insights • Patient X (53 year old male admitted to hospital in 1960 [severe asthma attack]). Released, goes to mother’s house, suffers two severe asthma attacks. Told to stay away from his mother à died later from heart failure due to lack of oxygen. • Full story: when he was a teenager, his father died and asked him to be the man of the house. Briefly married twice but mother was spiteful of both marriages thinking they would fail • Went into business together, told mother he wanted to leave, she said something really bad would happen to him and he suffered an asthma attack right after (and suffered one every time he spoke to her) • True cause of his death: stress • Most people acknowledge at least a folk idea that stress can make you sick o The common cold o Sleeplessness o Eventual heart attacks and strokes What is Health Psychology? • Study of positive/negative impacts of human behaviour on health, survival, well-being What is stress? • Stressors: specific events or chronic pressures that place demands on a person or threaten o Rarely result in sudden death o Cumulative effects influence health • Stress o Produced my life events o Definition: physical and psychological response to internal or external stressors • Sources of stress o What “gets to us”? § Catastrophes (esp. living through them) § Daily life events (little things that can be stressful) § It’s all really about our perceived control over stressors Stressful Events: Holmes and Rahe • People often get sick after major life events o Suggest that major life events cause stress, and stress causes illness • 43 life events (asked participants if they had experienced each event) • Each event has a different weight for stress (=Life Change Unit) • The more events you’d gone through, the higher the stress How to score the scale • Why are positive events included? o Do produce less stress o Happiness can counteract the stress o Still require readjustment, which many find extremely stressful • Stressful life event cale for undergrads o The CUSS (college undergrad stress scale) Chronic stressors • Sources of stress that occur continuously or repeatedly o Strained relationships, nagging relatives, too much work, money trouble • People reporting lots of daily hassles o Report more physical and psychological symptoms o Negative effects often greater and longer lasting • This is often related to environment o Noise and school-children Perceived Control over Stressful Events • Events are most stressful when can’t be controlled o Feeling that you have control is highly related to how well you handle stress o Eg experiment: people solving puzzles in a quiet room and loud room à there were loud bursts of noises randomly. Some people had option to push button to stop the noise; helped their performance significantly because they felt they had control over the noise situation (even if they didn’t actually press button) Physical reactions to stress • Fight-or-flight o An emotional and physiological reaction to emergency that increases action o Diagram: hypothalamus à stimulates pituitary gland à releases ACTH à travels through blood and stimulates penal gland à releases hormones that increase BP, perspiration etc à provides more oxygen available to fuel and energize muscles General Adaptation Syndrome • Hans Selye o Studied rats o Enlarged adrenal cortex, shrunken lymph glands, etc o GAS: a 3-stage physiological stress response (rats had a very similar physiological response despite the variety of different stressors induced upon them) o “What does not kill me makes me stronger” à not really • Three phases 1. Alarm phase o initial reaction, body mobilizes, need energy o this is the flight-or-fight reaction o resistance to stress is low 2. Resistance phase o body adapts to arousal o body shuts down other processes, like digestion, production of sperm, growth, etc 3. Exhaustion phase o resistance collapses o the costs of resistance is calculated, results in gradual damage o results in aging, irreversible organ damage, even death Stress effects on immunity • Immune system o A complex response system protecting the body from bacteria, viruses, and foreign substances o Eg. Alzheimer’s caregivers vs. non-caregivers § All given flu shots: those who were caregivers had lower immunity to the shots (suggested that the higher stress affected their immunity) o Social status and health à people with lower status jobs/ social status were more prone to stress à led to sickness Stress and cardiovascular health • Main cause of coronary heart disease o Atherosclerosis: gradual narrowing of the arteries occurring as plaque builds o Once narrowing occurs, risk of blockage increases o Smoking, lack of exercise and diet implicated o Chronic stress huge effect § High BP damages blood vessels § Damaged vessels accumulate plaque • What are the main chronic stressors implicated in heart attacks? o Work stress is highly implicated o Type A Behaviour Pattern § Tendency toward easily aroused hostility, impatience, urgency, competitiveness (Type B is opposite: more relaxed, chilled) § Followed 300 men for nine years, the Type A men had 3 times the number of heart attacks (More the hostility and aggression than the competitiveness and conscientiousness that led to problems) § Revolutionary: First study to show a link between personality and real health outcomes Stress Management • How do we deal with stress? • How do we counteract it? o 92% of University students report occasionally feeling overwhelmed o 33% report poor performance, failing or dropping a class due to stress o So what should you do? Mind Management • “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never
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