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Lecture 6

Health Psychology lecture 6.doc

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University of Toronto St. George
Nevena Simic

Health Psychology: Lecture 6 Stress Defined: • Stress: negative emotional experience. - Accompanied by predictable  Biochemical  Physiological  Cognitive  Behavioural changes Sources of Stress: 1. Relationships - College students: 1/3 stressful events caused by relationships - Married couples: up to 80% • What do couples stress about? - How to spend money - Work-family time balance - Fair distribution of childcare/household tasks - Illness/divorce 2. Work pressure - Long hours, constant deadlines, responsibility  Ex) final exam time - “My life is in your hands” jobs= high stress (doctor, firefighter, air traffic controller) - Coworkers/bosses, lack of resources, physical environment - Longer commutes= higher stress (higher cortisol) • Commuting is stressful: Evans & Wener, 2006. - Commuting longer times caused more stress - The longer the commute the more present cortisol was. - Also, rated their stress levels. A direct relationship between length of commute and levels of stress. - Read an essay and had to catch errors, the longer the commute the fewer errors the participants were able to pick up on. 3. Environmental pressures - Noise, crowding, natural disasters - Poverty 4. Internal conflict - Torn between goals (travel/work; eat/lose weight) 5. Lack control - Wait in line at post office; traffic jam - Illness diagnosis Stress Defined: • Has 2 components: - Physical: involves direct material or bodily challenge - Psychological: involves how we perceive circumstances in our lives Three ways of examining stress: 1. Stress as stimulus: - Focus on environment - Physical/psychological challenges= stressors 2. Stress as response: - Focus on people’s reactions - Physical (heart pounds, mouth dry) & psychological (thought/emotion patterns) reactions - Strain 3. Stress as process - Relationship between person and environment - Transactions= continuous interactions and adjustments - Person and environment each affecting and being affect by the other • Stress: the circumstance in which transactions lead a person to perceive a discrepancy between physical or psychological demands of a situation and the resources of his or her biological, psychological, or social systems. Psychological appraisal and the experience of stress: • Lazarus=psychological view of stressors - Primary appraisal  Perception of new or changing environment as beneficial, neutral, or negative in its consequences  Harm, threat, challenge? - Secondary appraisal  Assessment of one’s coping abilities and resources and judgment as to whether they will be sufficient to meet the harm, threat, or challenge Psychology & stress: • Appraising events as harmful, threatening, or challenging and assessing one’s capacity to respond to those events • Events that tax or exceed one’s resources= perceived as stressful “The experience of stress”: • In our textbook. • Potential stressor: chest pain, what is this pain? Am I in danger? • Primary appraisal: irrelevant: “happened before. Good: “don’t have to write exam.” Bad: “I could die.” Harm: damaged my heart. Threat: cant work; how pay my bills. Challenge: I can make job change. • Stress • Secondary appraisal: I’m alone and can’t get help- ill die. The ambulance is on its way- ill be ok. This is a wake up call- I need to make changes. Stress is in the eye of the beholder: • Individual differences are huge factors - What is stressful for some people isn’t for others • Perceptions of discrepancies between environmental demands and actual resources - Can be either real of just believed to exist - Stress often results from inaccurate perceptions Factors leading to stressful appraisal: 1. Personal factors - Intellect, motivation, personality I. Self-esteem: higher= more likely to meet demands - Bad situation but I can overcome it - Challenge rather than threat II. Motivation: more important threatened goal= more stress III. Belief system: irrational beliefs increase stress 2. Situational factors - Events that involve strong demands and are imminent tend to be seen as more stressful - Ex) physically uncomfortable or painful medical procedure (surgery) > blood pressure test next week What makes events stressful? • Valence - Negative events are more likely to produce stress than are positive events (shopping, party planning= +stress) • Control - Uncontrollable or unpredictable events are more stressful than controllable or predictable events. • Clarity - Ambiguous events are often perceived as more stressful than are clear-cut events • Burden - Overloaded people are more stressed than are people with fewer tasks to perform • Domains - More vulnerable to stress in central life domains than in peripheral ones Appraisal Exercise: • The experience of stress • Potential stressor - Midterm exam - Rush-hour traffic - Oral presentation - Flat tire - Meeting boyfriend/girlfriend parents Biological aspects of stress: • Physiological reactions to stress - Increased heart rate, breathing, muscles tremble (arms and legs)… - Body is aroused and motivated to defend itself - Sympathetic nervous system & endocrine system cause this arousal • Reactivity: physiological portion of stress response - Measured against a baseline (resting) level of arousal - Influenced by genetic factors, chronic stress Fight or Flight: • Cannon (1932) - We are usually in a state of internal balance (homeostasis) - Feel threatened - Physiological response mobilizes body to act - Shift in resources from nonessential body systems to those that are needed to meet the challenge • Perceive threat sympathetic +endocrine arousal attack or run away • Activate SNS & ES - Adrenomedullary response - Epinephrine, norepinephrine • Rise in epinephrine & NE: increase Heart rate, Blood pressure, breathing; widen pupils; movement of blood to muscles • Positive and negative effects - Adaptive: fast mobilization in response to danger - But: prolonged high arousal can be harmful to health General adaptation syndrome: • Seyle (1956, 1976) - Extended Cannon’s work to describe the stages a body goes through in reaction to stress - Rats exposed to different stressors (cold, electric shock) • Physiological response - Enlarged adrenal cortex - Smaller thymus & lymph glands (immunity) - Ulceration of the stomach (duodenum) GAS consists of three stages: 1. Alarm reaction - SNS: Epi + NE - Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal. HPA axis (negative feedback): glucocortcoids (cortisol) - Cortisol: increases ATP production from glucose, inhibits inflammation 2. Resistance - Strong stressor continues but is not severe enough to cause death - Body continues to work hard to resist stressor  Physiological arousal remains high  Body replenishes adrenal hormones 3. Exhaustion - Resources are limited - Epinephrine and cortisol can damage heart and blood vessels, suppress immune system - Disease and damage to internal organs is likely The three phases of Seyle’s (1974) general adaptation syndrome (graph); • Alarm: non-specific mobilization (SNS activity) • Resistance: organism makes efforts to cope with threat • Exhaustion: organism fails to overcome the threat and depletes its physiological resources • Reduced immune function in exhaustion illness: ulcers, depression, diabetes, digestive and cardiovascular problems GAS: non-specific: • All stressor produce same physiological response • Positive stress (e.g. getting married) less harmful than negative stress (e.g. getting divorced), both can lead to same negative physiological response. Updates to fight-or-flight and GAS models: • People may vary in how they respond to stress - Men have higher blood pressure increases than women in response to challenging tasks (root of higher coronary heart disease in men?) • Different types of stressors are associated with different types of physiological
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