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Department
Psychology
Course
Psychology 1000
Professor
Dr.Mike
Semester
Winter

Description
THE NATURE OF STRESS Stress is viewed in three ways: 1) As a stimulus: Stressors: eliciting stimulus or event that place strong demands on us -stress as a stimulus when we are making decisions (Ex. there’s all this stress in my life) 2) As response: -having cognitive, behavioural, and psychological components -stress as a response when there is a presence of negative emotions (Ex. “I’m all stressed out”) 3) As an organism-environment interaction: -viewed as a person situation interaction (a transaction) Stress: a pattern of cognitive appraisals, physiological response, and behavioural tendencies that occurs in response to a perceived imbalance between situational demands and the resources needed to cope with them STRESSORS -any specific kind of eliciting stimulus (physical or psychological); place demands and danger our well being The greater the imbalance between demands and resources, the more stressful a situation is 3 classes of stress: 1) Microstressors: the daily hassles and everyday annoyances we encounter (Ex. school) 2) Catastrophic events: occur unexpectedly and typically affect large numbers of people (Ex. natural disasters) 3) Major negative events: are more personal (Ex. being part of a crime scene, career failure) Events in which we have little or no control, happen unexpectedly, and impact us over a long period of time have the greatest impact Measuring Stressful Life Events: Life event scales: -quantifies the amount of life stress a person has experienced over a give period of time -done by self-reports; -asks the person whether a particular event has occurred, their appraisal of whether it was a positive or negative one, and if it was a major event (significant and long term impact) or “day-to-day” event Then… believed that any event that requires adaptation (whether positive or negative) is a stress Now…only negative events predicted health and behavioural outcomes; stress is defined when negative life changes occur THE STRESS RESPONSE The starting point for the stress response is our appraisal of the situation. Four aspects of appraisal processes: 1) appraisal of the demands of the situation (primary appraisal) 2) appraisal of the resources available to cope with it (secondary appraisal) 3) judgments of what the consequences of the situation could be 4) appraisal of the personal meaning –what the outcome may imply about us Ex. Going for a job interview 1) engage in primary appraisal of the situation (how difficult of an interview will it be) 2) same time engage in secondary appraisal- how well will you be able to cope with the demands; coping resources include your knowledge, and abilities -if you believe that demands outweigh the resources then you will become stressed 3) you will take into account the potential consequences- failing to cope- the seriousness and the likelihood of the consequences (how will you be able to pay you tuition if you fail) 4) the psychological meaning of the consequences –related to your beliefs about yourself; certain beliefs can make you vulnerable to certain demands (if self worth relates to success, then doing poorly will provide evidence that you are worthless) -distortions and mistaken appraisals can occur at any of the steps which can cause inappropriate stress responses -since appraisals patterns differ from person to person, it explains why there is so much variation in the way people respond to the same situation -appraisals and the physiological response affect one another (autonomic and somatic feedback can affect our appraisal of how stressful a situation is) CHRONIC STRESS AND GAS General adaptation syndrome (GAS): -a physiological response pattern to strong or prolonged stressors; 3 phases 1) Alarm reaction: -increased physiological arousal; occurs because the sudden activation of the sympathetic nervous system (activating effect) and the release of stress hormones Sympathetic N.S response: -activating effect in which pupils dilate, heart rate and breathing increases -helps the body deal with the source of the stress (Ex. increased heart rate means there is more blood flowing to the muscles) Hormonal response: - messages from hypothalamus  pituitary gland  adrenal glands -most important hormone is cortisol; increases blood sugars by acting on the liver -suppresses immune system (ex. when injured, prevents swelling) -characterized as a “fight or flight” response; (fight-approach stimulus) (flight – retreat from it) Parasympathetic nervous system –activates to maintain homeostasis; reduces arousal -with continued exposure to the stimulus (regardless of the Parasympathetic NS) stress will continue 2) Resistance: -the body’s resources continue to mobilize so the person can function regardless of the stressor -can last a long time, but as it does the body’s resources are being depleted; time depends on the severity of stress, available support, and the person’s general health -resistance ends when… the bodily resources are no longer sufficient 3) Exhaustion: -the body’s resources are dangerously depleted -an increased vulnerability to disease, collapse, and even death The more severe the stress, the sooner the person is likely to reach exhaustion STRESS AND HEALTH STRESS AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL BEING -most dramatic among people who have experienced catastrophic life events -psychological symptoms of stress can be long lasting; (Ex. Holocaust survivors, soldiers from war) Rape trauma syndrome: for months or even years after the rape, victims may feel nervous and fear another attack -victims report decreased enjoyment of sex, nightmares, and fear when alone, in crowds, or outdoors How do less severe stressors affect psychological well-being? -research shows that the more negative life events people report, the more likely they report symptoms of psychological distress -the data is Correlational so there could be other causal interpretations to this relationships Other interpretations: -people’s levels of distress may influence their reporting of negative events (the reverse) -distressed people are more likely to remember negative things -distress may cause more negative events to occur in a person’s life A third causal possibility: a third variable causes both negative events and psychological distress Ex. neuroticism: have high tendencies to experience negative emotions and themselves into stressful situations STRESS AND ILLNESS -stress can combine with other physical and psychological factors to influence a spectrum of physical illness -could be immediate: during stressful events (natural disasters) the rate of heart attacks increase -could be less immediate: even when they are the same severity; widowers show a higher mortality rate than married people of the same age -adults who experience high stress are at risk of developing a chronic disease Men: heart disease risk was increased Women: the risk of asthma and migraines increased If someone experiences several stressors, the risk of developing a chronic disease increases -physiological responses to stressors can directly harm the body -Stress hormones can damage the lining of arteries and contribute to fat blockages- cause strokes/heart attacks -stress can cause a breakdown in the immune system Ex. during hostile conversations, immune system functioning decreased in 30 hours -prolonged exposure of the hippocampus to stress related hormones (happen with chronic stress) causes the deterioration of the hippocampus and therefore memory problems -stress can cause people to behave in ways that increases the risk of illness Ex. when under stress, diabetics are less likely to regulate their diet and take their medication resulting in an increased risk of serious medical conditions VULNERABILITY AND PROTECTIVE FACTORS Vulnerability factors: increase people’s susceptibility to stressful events Examples: lack of support, poor coping skills, tendencies to be anxious/pessimistic Protective factors: environmental or personal resources that help people cope more effectively with stressful events Example: social support, coping skills, personality factors (ex. optimism) SOCIAL SUPPORT -social isolation is an important vulnerability factor -after taking into account medical conditions, researchers found that people with weak social ties were twice as likely to die during the period of study -the relationship between social isolation and poor health was stronger for men than women Social support protects against stress by enhancing immune system functioning -people with high social support produce more immune cells -studies show that social support decreases psychological stress in people who are dealing with stressful life events Why is support such a strong protective factor? -people who feel part of social system experience a greater sense of identity and meaning in their life –allows for a greater psychological well being -reduce exposure to other risk factors (ex. loneliness) -friends can apply social pressures from preventing people from dealing with stressors with maladaptive behaviour Emotional “purging” Experiment: the group of people that shared tragic events (negative emotions) had enhanced immune system functioning after the session as compared to a control group that discussed everyday events Experiment: Bringing holocaust survivors to talk about their experiences; the ones that shared their stories in the most detail had the most improved health 14 months later Problem: since the participants can choose whether to share or not, it could be some personality factor that contributes to both emotional disclosure and health consequences COGNITIVE PROTECTIVE FACTORS: -the ways that we think about situations and ourselves (appraisals) are important protective and vulnerability factors Hardiness: How does a group of people working in the same stressful job differ in their psychological reactions (if any)? Hardiness: three beliefs that constituted a stress-protective factor: 1) commitment: hardy people are committed to their work, families, and other involvements- they believe that what they are doing is important 2) control: they view themselves as having control over their outcomes (don’t feel powerless) 3) challenge: appraise the demands of the situation as challenges or opportunities, not threats Therefore demanding situations become less stressful, but they can stimulate higher levels of performance Control is the strongest factor in getting rid of stress Coping Self-Efficacy: -the conviction that we can perform the behaviours necessary to cope successfully (if we have the resources) Ex. even events that are very demanding may not be stressful if we believe we have the skills -efficacy is always specific to the situation (can I handle these demands) -previous success in a similar situation will increase it; failure will decrease it Can increase efficacy by… watching other people cope successfully, social persuasion, encouragement -experiencing a low level of physiological arousal when faced with a stressor can convey a sense of strength and ability to cope Experiment: when people experience increase in self-efficacy during a stressful event, their immune system functions more effectively Optimism: Optimists: believe that in the long run things will work out -optimistic people are at lower risk for anxiety and depression when confronting stressful events; they appraise themselves as being less helpless -optimism is a health protective factor Ex. patients with equally severe breast cancer; the optimistic patients lived longer Finding meaning in stressful life events: (Humanistic perspective- finding meaning in one’s life) Ex. through spiritual beliefs Experiment: when studying parents who lost their infants; those that found meaning in the loss experienced less distress and had longer term effects -religious beliefs can either decrease or increase stress Increased stress: poorer physical and psychological adjustment occurred for people who viewed themselves as being punished by God and victims of demonic forces -increase the negative impact of stressors by inducing guilt or placing internal pressure Ex. feeling pressured to stay in stressful marriage Decreased stress: more when dealing with losses, illnesses, and personal setbacks PHYSIOLOGICAL REACTIVITY -the fact that people differ in the pattern and intensity of their physiological responses gives people different vulnerabilities to stress Physiological toughness: a particular stress hormone involves the relations between 2 classes of hormones secreted by the adrenal gland 1) catecholamines: epinephrine and norepinephrine - don’t last as long and are not as damaging (unless they are secreted at high levels for a period of time) -consists of a low resting level of catecholamines, but a quick and strong response to a stressor, followed by a quick decline when the stressor is over -produces maximum short-term mobilization of resources needed to deal with stressor; prevents eventual depletion of catecholamines Ex. increases immune system functioning 2) corticosteroids: particularly cortisol - Arousal effects last longer and seem more damaging Ex. reduces immune system functioning and helps to build fatty deposits in the arteries -a low resting level of cortisol, and low levels of secretion in response to a stressor -increased vulnerability to bodily breakdowns occurs when the person responds to stress with high levels of cortisol instead of catecholamines COPING WITH STRESS 3 categories for coping with stress: 1) Problem focused coping: -attempts to confront and deal with the demands of the situation, or change it so it is no longer stressful Ex. studying for a test, planning, problem solving, suppressing. Assertive confrontation 2) Emotion focused coping: -attempts to manage the emotional responses that result it; appraising the situation in a way that minimizes its emotional impact Ex. positive reinterpretation, acceptance, denial, repression, escape avoidance 3) Seeking social support: -turning to others for emotional assistance and support in times of stress Ex. help and guidance, emotional support, tangible aid (money), affirmation of worth EFFECTIVE COPING STRATEGIES -people would think that problem focused coping is the most effective; something needs fixing, we should fix it Research shows… -problem focused and seeking emotional support were associated with favorable adjustment to stressors -emotion focused strategies that involve avoiding feelings (avoidance, denial, and wishful thinking) predicted depression, poorer adjustment, and less effective adjustment -emotion focused strategies can be adaptive; identifying and changing the irrational and negative thought can reduce stress responses without avoiding or distorting reality CONTROLLABILITY AND COPING EFFICACY -evidence shows that problem solving coping is the most adaptive way to cope with stress; but sometimes we cannot modify the situation -in this case, emotion focused coping is the most adaptive because even if you cannot master the situation, you can still prevent and control maladaptive emotional responses to it Experiment: the effectiveness of emotion focused coping -airline employees volunteered to be in a fake hijacking where they were kept hostage for four days 3 conditions: 1) trained in problem focused techniques: shown how to interact with the captor, maintain composure, and interact non verbally with each other 2) trained in emotion focused techniques: deep breathing, muscle relaxation, stopping unwanted thoughts, and generating pleasant fantasies 3) control group: not trained in any coping techniques -the groups trained in either problem or emotion focused techniques showed less distress than the control group on self reports and behavioural measures (observing them) -emotion focused training adapted better than the problem focused training (in the uncontrollable conditions) -therefore, the effectiveness of the techniques depends on the characteristics of the situation that they are in BOTTLING UP FEELINGS -in a European experiment: shows that people with high stress but were too emotionally restrained to express negative emotions (even when appropriate) were more likely to develop cancer than those were also highly stressed but were not emotionally restrained -severe emotional constraint can have negative health effects GENDER, CULTURE, AND COPING Men –more likely to favour problem focused coping strategies when faced with a stressor Women –more likely to favour social support coping strategies (have a larger support network and high need for affiliation) -more likely to favour emotion focused coping than men Coping preferences are consistent with the socialization of boys and girls (men-assertive, women-supportive) North America and Europe- show a tendency to use problem focused coping Asia and Hispanics –favor emotion focused coping and social support -greater tendency to avoid stressful situations (culture’s emphasis on interpersonal harmony) PAIN AND PAIN MANAGEMENT -pain has important survival functions; -serves as a warning signal when our body is being threatened or damaged -trigger behavioural reactions that help us cope with threat BIOLOGICAL MECHANISMS OF PAIN Pain receptors in all tissue; nerve endings in the skin and internal organs respond to mechanical, thermal, or chemical stimulation  Sends nerve impulses to the brain via the spinal cord  Sensory information about pain intensity and location is relayed in the brain by the thalamus and Somatosensory and frontal areas of the cerebral cortex  Thalamus directs nerve impulses to the limbic system (involved in motivation and emotion) Pain has both sensory and emotional components to it Suffering: occurs when both painful sensations and negative emotions are present Gate Control Theory: -the experience of pain results from the opening and closing of “gating mechanisms” in the nervous system There are two types of fibers that enter the spinal cord and activate neurons which go to the brain regions responsible for our perception of pain 1) Thin fibers: -carry sharp-pain impulses; high levels of thin fiber open a system of spinal cord “gates” and allow the nerve impulses to travel towards the brain –increases our perception of pain 2) Thick fibers: -contains very dull-pain and touch information; thick fiber activity closes the “gates”- decreases our perception of pain Our feelings of pain is determined by the proportion of thin-to-thick fibers Ex. acupuncture achieves pain relief because it stimulates mostly thick fibers which closes the gates -nerve fibers descending from the brain can influence the spinal gates (increasing or decreasing the flow of pain from the brain) Central control mechanism: allows thoughts, emotions, and beliefs to influence the experience of pain (why pain is also a psychological phenomenon) The Endorphins: -naturally occurring opiates; Opiates (morphine and heroin) have been used to relieve pain; they lock into specific receptor sites in brain regions associated with pain perception -exert pain killing effects by inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters involved in the synaptic transmission of pain impulses from the spinal cord to the brain -part of the body’s natural response to stress Problem: high levels of endorphin release help block the activity o
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