PSYA02H3 Lecture Notes - Food Intolerance, Nicotine Replacement Therapy, Thought Suppression

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4 Apr 2013
Chapter 16 Stress and Health
- STRESSORS => specific events or chronic pressures that place demands on a
person or threaten the person’s well-being
- STRESS => the physical and psychological response to internal or external
- HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY => the subfield of psychology concerned w/ ways
psychological factors influence the causes and treatment of physical illness and the
maintenance of health
Sources of Stress: What Gets to You
- stressors are personal events that affect the comfortable pattern of our lives and
little annoyances that bug us day after day
Stressful Events
- Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe proposed that major life changes cause stress
and that increased stress causes illness
- research has shown that compared w/ negative events, positive events produce
less psychological distress and fewer physical symptoms
- however positive events often require readjustment and preparedness that many
people find extremely stressful
Chronic Stressors
- CHRONIC STRESSORS => sources of stress that occur continuously or repeatedly
- people who report having a lot of daily hassles also report more psychological
symptoms and physical symptoms
- eg: strained relationships, nagging relatives, money troubles, etc.
- many chronic stressors are linked to particular environments
- eg: noise, traffic, pollution, etc
- the realization that chronic stressors are linked to environments has spawned the
subfield environmental psychology -> the scientific study of environmental effects
on behavior and health
Perceived Control over Stressful Events
- stressors challenge you to do something to take some action to eliminate or
overcome the stressor
- expecting that you will have control over what happens to you is associated w/
effectiveness in dealing w/ stress
- studies have found that a lack of perceived control underlies other stressors too
- for eg: the stressful effects of crowding appear to stem from the feeling that you
can’t control getting away from the crowded conditions
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Stress Reactions: All Shock Up
- catecholamines -> biochemicals indicating the activation of emotional systems
Physical Reactions
- FLIGHT-OR-FIGHT RESPONSE => an emotional and physiological reaction to an
emergency that increases readiness for action
- this phrase was coined by Walter Cannon
- Cannon recognized this common response across species and suspected that it
might be the body’s first mobilization to any threat
- research conducted has revealed what is happening in the brain and body during
this reaction
- brain activation in response to threat occurs in the hypothalamus, stimulating
the nearby pituitary gland, which in turn releases a hormone known as ACTH
(adrenocorticotropic hormone)
- ACTH travels through the bloodstream and stimulates the adrenal glands atop
the kidneys
- in this cascading response of the HPA axis ( HPA -> hypothalamus, pituitary,
adrenal), the adrenal glands are then stimulated to release hormones, including
the catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine), which increase
sympathetic nervous system activation (increase heart rate, blood pressure,
respiration rate) and decrease parasympathetic activation
- the increased respiration and blood pressure make more oxygen available to the
muscles to energize attack to initiate escape
General Adaption Syndrome
- Hans Selye undertook experiments that looked at the physiological consequences
of severe threats to well-being
- in his experiment on rats, they developed physiological responses that included an
enlarged adrenal cortex, shrinking of the lymph glands and ulceration of the
- he called this reaction GENERAL ADAPTION SYNDROME (GAS) => a three-stage
physiological stress response that appears regardless of the stressor that is
- the GAS is non-specific; meaning the response doesn’t vary, no matter what the
source of the repeated stress
- GAS occurs in 3 phases:
1. Alarm phase -> in which the body rapidly mobilizes its resources to
respond to the threat
- energy is required
- alarm phase is equivalent to Cannon’s fight-or-flight response
2. Resistance phase -> the body adapts to its high state of arousal as it tries
to cope w/ the stressor
- continuing to draw on resources of fat and muscle, it shuts down
unnecessary processes: digestion, growth, and sex drive stall; menstruation
stops; production of testosterone and sperm decreases
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3. if the GAS goes on for long enough, the exhaustion phase sets in
- body’s resistance collapses
- many of the resistance-phase defenses create gradual damage as they
operate, leading to costs for the body that can included susceptibility to
infection, tumor growth, aging, death
Stress Effects on the Immune Response
- IMMUNE SYSTEM => a complex response system that protects the body from
bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances
- the system includes white blood cells such as LYMPHOCYTES (including T cells
and B cells) => cells that produce antibodies that fight infection
- psychoneuroimmunology -> the study of how the immune system responds to
psychological variables, such as the presence of stressors
- stressors can cause hormones known as glucocorticoids to flood the brain, wearing
down the immune system and making it less able to fight invaders
Stress and Cardiovascular Health
- heart and circulatory system are also sensitive to stress
- main cause of coronary heart disease is atherosclerosis -> a gradual narrowing of
the arteries that occurs at fatty deposits, or plaque build up on the inner walls of the
- narrowed arteries result in a reduced blood supply and when an artery is blocked
by a blood clot or by detached plaque, it results in an heart attack
- as a result of stress activated arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, blood
pressure goes up and stays up, and this gradually damages the blood vessels
- Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman developed the concept of the TYPE A
BEHAVIOR PATTERN => a tendency toward easily aroused hostility, impatience, a
sense of time urgency, and competitive achievement strivings
Psychological Reactions
Stress Interpretation
- the interpretation of a stimulus as stressful or not is called primary appraisal
- the next step in interpretation is secondary appraisal -> determining whether the
stressor is something you can handle or not whether you have control over the
- the body responds differently depending on whether the stressor is perceived as a
threat -> a stressor you believe you might not be able to overcome or a challenge ->
a stressor you feel fairly confident you can control
Stress Disorders
- POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) => a disorder characterized by
chronic physiological arousal, recurrent unwanted thoughts or images of the
trauma, and avoidance of things that call the traumatic event to mind
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