PSY240H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Allostatic Load, Acute Stress Reaction, Adjustment Disorder

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16 Oct 2011

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Chapter 5: Stress and Adjustment Disorders
What Is Stress?
Stress refers to both
o The adjustive demands
Regular stressors (ex. Getting to class on time, any change in your life that’s important to you)
“Adjusting” your behaviour
o Internal responses to such demands
Stress is a by-product of poor or inadequate coping
o Too much stress = a by-product of poor/inadequate coping
o Don’t have enough skills to curve what’s happening internally
Both eustress and distress tax a person’s coping skills
o Eustress: positive stress, ex. associated w/ starting a new job, wedding planning, vacation, we need
stress in our life to make us function
o Distress: negative stress, ex. Associated w/ losing a loved one, relationship troubles, etc, This is
typically what we think of when we say stress.
Categories of Stressors
o Arise when we have a certain set of obstacles in the way
o Normal aspect of everyone’s life
Conflicts: simultaneous needs that have to be resolved
o A strong tendency to approach the goal, but at the same time avoid the goal.
o Ex. You have a great job but your ex is working at the same company
Double-approach conflicts
o Two desirable goals
o Ex. You get into two really good med schools and have to pick one.
Double-avoidance conflicts
o Not a win-win situation any way you look at it
o Ex. The only job available is crappy AND your ex is there
o Forces you to work, change the direction you’re heading in, move things forward
o Not all pressures, conflicts, stressors are bad, we NEED them to get us going
o It’s the extent of the stress
Factors Predisposing a Person to Stress
Nature of the stressor:
o Characterize the stressor. Is it chronic/constant? Or is it just associated with a single event? Short term
stress? How many stressors do you have at one time?
The experience of crisis:
o Crisis = the ultimate form of stress, when it exceeds your coping/adaptive ability to handle.
Life Changes:
o Everything that gets you to change your behaviour = a stressor, could be good or bad.
o Ex. Getting married, starting university
Perception of Stress:
o We all deal w/ challenges differently.
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Chapter 5: Stress and Adjustment Disorders
o How much you can handle.
Lack of external resources and social supports:
o The one friend that helps you with stress. Ex. Alexis!
Life Changes
Social Readjustment Rating Scale
o Cumulative stress
o Life change units (LCU)
Number that is calculated
o LCU: death of a spouse >> divorce
o LCU: 300 or more (major illness)
high number=very risky/dangerous
Impact of Event Scale
o Better than ^, more thorough and look at the stressor and try to relate symptoms
o Identification of the stressor
o Stress-related symptoms
Sometimes these scales ignore the acute stressors, tend to focus on chronic/ongoing changes.
o Critics of stress:
o Assess how anxiety affects stress, pay attn to person’s memory
Coping with Stress
Three interacting levels:
1. Biological
o Body has ability to deal with stressful situations
o Fight/flight internal/intrinsic ways of dealing
o Rest/digest slowing down to help recover
2. Psychological
o Social support at a psychological level
3. Sociocultural
o Institutional societys set up to help us deal w/ stress
o Ex. Religion, police
A task-oriented response involves
Making changes in one’s self, one’s surrounding, or both
Overt (everyone can see) or covert (talking to yourself, thinking in your mind) action
Retreating, attacking, or compromising
A defense-oriented response may involve
Protecting yourself
Psychological damage repair mechanisms
o Ex. Crying (letting it all out), repetitive talking
Ego-defense mechanisms
o Ex. Depression, repression, denial, etc!
The Effects of Severe Stress
Extreme or prolonged stress can bring about extensive physical and psychological problems
Stress can affect the sympathetic nervous system
Fight/flight responses
Stress can affect the immune system
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