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Lecture 6

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Nevena Simic

Lecture 6 Stress & Moderators of the Stress Experience What is Stress? (Chapter 6): - Stress: negative emotional experience o Accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological, cognitive, and behavioural changes o Response directed either toward altering stressful event or accommodating to its effects i.e. travel with a friend, listen to music - Stressors: stressful events o A stressful event may be stressful to some people but not to others - Person-Environment Fit: o Stress is the consequence of a persons appraisal processes: Their assessment of whether personal resources are sufficient to meet the demands of the environment (person-environment fit) o Person`s resources are more than adequate to deal with a difficult situation = little stress, experience a challenge o Individual perceives that resources will probably be sufficient to deal with the event but only at a cost of great effort = moderate amount of stress o Individual perceives resources will probably not suffice to meet an environmental stressor = experience a great deal of stress o Therefore, stress results from the process of appraising the events Stress Defined: - The condition of stress has 2 components: o Physical: involved direct material or physical challenge o Psychological: involves how we perceive circumstances in our lives 3 Ways of Examining Stress: s-r-p 1. Stress as a stimulus: o Focus on environment o Physical/psychological challenged = stressors 2. Stress as a response: o Focus on peoples reaction o Strain: physical (heart pounds, mouth dry) and psychological (thought/ emotion patterns) reactions 3. Stress as a process: o Relationship between person and environment o Transactions = continuous interactions and adjustments o Person and environment each affecting and being affected by the other - Stress: the circumstances in which the transactions lead a person to perceive a discrepancy between physical or psychological demands of a situations and the resources of his or her biological, psychological, or social systems 1 Stress is in the Eye of the Beholder: - Individual differences are huge factors o What is stressful for some people isnt for others - Perceptions of discrepancies between environmental demands and actual resources o Can be either real of just believed to exist o Stress often results from inaccurate perceptions Appraising Events as Stressful: - Assessment of whether personal resources are sufficient to meet the demands of environment = cognitive appraisal - Mental processes involving 2 assessments o Whether the demand threatens physical or psychological well-being o Resources available for meeting those demands Biological Aspects of Stress: 1. Physiological reactions to stress o Increased heart rate, breathing, muscles tremble (arms and legs) etc o Body is aroused and motivated to defend itself o Sympathetic nervous system and endocrine system cause this arousal 2. Reactivity: physiological portion of stress response o Influenced by genetic factors, chronic stress Theories of Stress: - Cannons Fight-or-Flight response: o Evolutionary advantage: flee predators Perceive threat sympathetic (stress) and endocrine arousal attack or run away o Adrenomedullary response: Catecholamines = epinephrine and norepinephrine o Positive and negative effects: Adaptive: fast mobilization in response to danger But: prolonged high arousal can be harmful to health (disrupts emotional and physiological functioning - Selyes General Adaptation Syndrome: GAS o Canadian, father of stress research o Rats exposed to different stressors (cold, fatigue) Stress response always same physiologically Organism confronts stressor it mobilizes itself for action nonspecific response o Adrenocortical response: Glucocorticoids o Physiological response: Enlarged adrenal cortex Smaller thymus and lymph glands Immunity Ulceration of the stomach and duodenum o GAS consists of 3 stages: 2 1. Alarm reaction: Cannons fight-or-flight response Produces a non-specific response of the SNS Sympathetic nervous system Fast-increasing arousal Results from the activation of the HPA axis (know the negative feedback inhibition process) o i.e. hypothalamus release releasing hormone to pituitary pituitary releases ACTH picked up by the adrenal cortex and secretes cortisol negative feedback to hypothalamus 2. Stage of resistance: Strong stressor continues but is not severe enough to cause death Efforts to cope with the stressor Body tries to adapt to stressor o Physiological arousal remains high o Body replenishes adrenal hormones Impaired ability to resist new stressors o Vulnerable to health problems (disease of adaptations) o Ulcers, high BP, asthma, impaired immune function 3. Stage of exhaustion: Resources are limited Fails to overcome the threat Inability to resist disease Depletes physiological resources in the process of trying o Benefits: 1. Offers a general theory of reactions to a wide variety of stressors over time 2. Posits a physiological mechanism for the stress-illness relationship o Criticisms: 1. Assigns a very limited role to psychological or social factors Appraisal factors 2. Only assessed stress as an outcome variable That stress is only evident when GAS has run its course However, we know that stress can be experience during the stressful event as well, even in the anticipation of the stressful event 3. Assumes that responses to stress are uniform Evidence that different stressors are influenced by personality, perceptions and constitution 3 - Taylors Tend-and-Befriend: o Response due to stress with social and nurturant behaviour o Especially true of women Evolutionary advantage: Men were responsible for hunting vs. gathering behaviour Women were responsible for foraging and child care o More likely to turn to each other in response to stress o Befriending = affiliating with others and seeking social contact during stress Helps in self-preservation and protection of offspring o Role of stress hormone oxytocin and influenced by estrogen increase affiliative behaviour increase social especially mothering increased oxytocin calm and relaxed Psychological Appraisal and the Experience of Stress: - missing from earlier models - Lazarus = psychological view of stressors o Primary Appraisal Perception of new or changing environment as positive, neutral, or negative in its consequences If negative, it is further appraised as harmful, threatening, challenging Harm the assessment of the damage that has already been done by an event Threat the assessment of possible further damage that may be brought about by the event Challenge the potential to overcome and even profit from the event o Secondary Appraisal Assessment of ones coping abilities and resources and judgement as to whether they will be sufficient to meet the harm, threat, or challenge When harm and threat are high and coping ability is low = substantial stress is felt When coping ability is high = stress may be minimal Cognitive responses to stress include beliefs about threat and harm and beliefs about its causes or controllability Includes involuntary responses (distractibility, inability to concentrate, performance disruption on cognitive tasks)
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