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PSY230H5 Lecture Notes - Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Sympathetic Nervous System

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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
- Types of stressors: Acute, episodic acute, traumatic, chronic stressors
oAcute 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
oEpisodic 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.
oTraumatic 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).
oChronic 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
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.
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

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Stress and Immune Function
Direct experimental evidence that long-term stress reduces immune function in animals:
oWound healing takes longer
oSusceptibility to flu is higher
Correlational research on stress in humans: is lacking, not ethical to do these kind of studies on
oPeople usually deal well with short-term stressors
oEthically 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 (Resistance). 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.

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So to the extent that stress is additive, a new stressor creates more stress, more stressors create
more stress.
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:
oOne month before a block of examinations
oOn the last day of the block of examinations
For both samples, compared memory T-cell proliferative responses to EBV polypeptides
oEBV causes mononucleosis, and may play roles in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and certain
-Virus is a long protein chain, protein chains made up of polypetides.
-T-cells are form of white blood cells, these T-Cells are the cells that have a memory of the genetic
signature of virsues that have been encountered by the immune system before. So the memory T
Cells act up when there is a proliferation of some virus that is already resident in the body.
Glaser et al. (1993)
Proliferative response significantly reduced:
oIn the ‘exam period’ blood samples (immune response suppressed during the exam period)
oFor people who reported seeking social support (tend to have a reduced immune-response
as well) [basically social support can be used as a buffer against stress, so stressed out
people with no support group do the worst of all]
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