PSYC 3170 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Psychosomatic Medicine, Cortisol, Safe Sex

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2 Feb 2013
Department
Course
HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY
LECTURE 5: OCTOBER 12TH, 2012
TOPIC: STRESS AND COPING
Three Views of Stress
Focus on the environment: stress as a stimulus (stressors)
Reaction to stress: stress as a response (strain)
Relationship between person and the environment: stress as an interaction (coping)
Stressors
Examples:
Traffic (stress of being late)
Exams
Seeing accidents on the side of the road
University life
The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale
Number one stressful event is the death of a spouse
Stressful because they put demands on us (money, time)
Example: moving, getting a new job (stressful but not unpleasant)
Stressors
Catastrophes
Major life events
Chronic stressful circumstances
Acute vs. Chronic Stress
Acute Stress-sudden typically short-lived, threatening event (e.g., robbery, giving a speech)
Produces immediate, severe stress symptoms
Those who are shy or introverted may be more stressed to give a speech in the spur of
the moment
Chronic Stress-ongoing environmental demand (e.g., marital conflict, work stress,
personality)
Type A Personality feels more stress than Type B
It is how we interpret everything around us. Two people can be in the same situation and
one can be stressed while the other is not.
Vacation: one person is excited and pumped while the other person worries about
forgetting something or missing work and school
Stress is subjective: our perception of an event.
Acute Stress Experiment Rozanski 1988
Subjects -39 individuals with coronary artery disease
Stress Tasks (0-5mins each)
Mental arithmetic
Stroop-colour word conflict task
Stress speech (talk about personal fault
Graded exercise on bicycle (until chest pain or exhaustion)
Outcome-stress response
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Example:
the word yellow is written in red. Need to identify colour quickly.
Had to prepare for a speech on the spot
Results
Stress response was significantly greater with speech threat than with other mental stress
tasks
Stress response to speech threat was same level as graded exercise
Heart abnormalities with lower heart rate during speech than during exercise (64 vs. 94
beats/min, p< .001)
These examples show how those with heart disease or heart issues are not only affected
by physical exertion but also by mental aspects as well.
Those with heart disease need a better understanding of how mental stress is a factor.
Chronic Stress Experiment- Frankenhaeuser, 1989
Subjects- 30 female and 30 male workers in managerial or clerical jobs
Outcome: blood pressure, heart rate, and catecholamine (norepinephrine) measured
throughout workday and non-workday.
Results
No gender differences in the effect of paid work on blood pressure and heart rate
In both men and women, blood pressure and heart rate were higher on a workday than a
non-workday.
Interaction between gender and time of day based on catecholamines (women have a
higher response in the morning compared to the end of the day) → more sensitive
measure.
This is a demonstrated of a “double day” that working women experience (work and
take care of home). 8Pm is most stressful part of day.
By looking at more sensitive responses we can claim more valuable info on the environment
on stress reaction, see group differences on how people respond to different environments,
need a biopsychosocial model to explain-possible women have more fluctuated levels of
stress hormones and men's might be more stable, women may engage in different
behaviours and have different interpretations of events, women doing a double day are more
prone to stress, social: gender roles with men and women as cultural and societal.
Could be estrogen, many women are more anxiety prone and feel depressed before their
menstrual cycle and such.
Three Views of Stress
Focus on the environment: stress as a stimulus (stressors)
Reaction to stress: stress as a response (strain)
Relationship between person and the environment: stress as an interaction (coping)
Fight or Flight Response ~Canon
REFER TO PPT.
It is universal
It is inherited and hard wired
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Differs among cultures
Different behaviours -nausea, sweaty palms, sweaty feet, exhausting → hard to stop it and
reassure yourself you are okay, fast heart rate, high blood pressure and adrenaline etc.
Sometimes it goes away after wards very suddenly and sometimes it takes a long way.
Example: car accident: still feel shaky and startled by what happened even though you know
the risk is gone now.
Cortisol → most direct measure of fight or flight (anxiety)
Why your body might produce these substances more? → when you are stressed you require
more energy. Example: produce more free fatty acids.
Platelets → they are in your blood and get sticky, clump together more easily and could
cause a blood clot if the fight or flight response continues for a long time.
This has to do with the resources the body needs to deal with stress. Body prioritizes these
aspects needed. Energy needed in muscles, heart and brain, not needed as much in skin
though. Lower priority organs get less circulation of blood flow.
Digestive tract → lower priority, blood flow decreases from lower intestine
Irritable Bowel Syndrome → digestive system becomes more blood deprived → prone to
inflammation and ulceration.
Very stressed → norm response is too lose your appetite (physiological level) because your
digestive tract is shut down. People have to go to the bathroom a lot because your body is
trying to remove all the food that is not at the moment necessary.
Body prioritizing and redistributing the resources needed during stress.
Objective measure of stress response instead of asking → measure cortisol (can do a spit
test -all you need is saliva).
Hanz Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome-associated with stress research
REFER TO PPT
How the fight or flight response relates to real events people encounter
Does not matter if it is actually threatening or not. All that matters is if the person perceives
it as stressful and threatening.
Individual differences
Phobias -spiders, birds, heights, needles etc. Body goes in fight or flight response when
perceiving you may encounter a spider for instance.
Have fight or flight response
Perception of danger or threat
Stressor from environment
Certain phobias such as snakes and needles is very hard to make extinct especially being
so common.
Are there more women afraid of spiders than men?
Could be because men want to be tough and it is not acceptable to scream when
seeing a spider → gender roles, conditioning, learning
Resistance
Threat is gone but fear and anxiousness (fight/flight response) persists
Your defenses are very high-body remains in an heightened immunity during this stage.
Fending off foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses). However, this all takes a lot of energy.
If the stress continues then your body will go into exhaustion which leads to your body
having a prolonged physiological reaction → causes abnormalities in stress glands,
weakened immune system,decreased resistance, vascular areas (small blood vessels)
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