Chapter 6 Stress ..
Stress negative emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological,
cognitive, and behavioural changes that are directed either toward altering stressful event or
accommodating to its effects.
Stressor stressful events themselves, such as noise, crowds, bad relationship, a round of job interviews
or commuting to work.
May be stressful to some people but not to others so how it is perceived determines whether it
will be experienced as stressful.
Stress is a consequence of a persons appraisal process: the assessment of whether personal
resources are sufficient to meet the demands of the environment = person environment fit.
When a persons resources are more than adequate to deal with a situation, he or she may feel
little stressed and experience a sense of challenge.
- Sufficient resources at the cost of great effort = moderate stress
- Not sufficient resources = great stress
- Therefore, stress results from the process of appraising events (harmful, threatening or
Fight or Flight (Walter Cannon) perceived threat, body if aroused and motivated via SymNS and the
endocrine system, which allows the individual to flee or fight.
- Fight refers to aggressive responses to stress
- Flight refers to social withdrawal
- It is adaptive because enables indvul to respond quickly, but can be harmful because stress
disrupts emotional and physiological functioning if stress continues.
- Focused on adrenomedullary responses to stress, specifically catecholamine secretion
Hans Selyes General Adaptation Syndrome When an organism confronts a stressor, it mobilizes
itself for action, response if nonspecific and all stressors produced same pattern of response, led to an
enlarged adrenal cortex, shrinking of the thymus and lymph glands and ulcer.
ALARM organism becomes mobalized to meet the threat.
RESISTANCE organism makes an effort to cope with the threat.
EXHAUSTION occurs if the organism fails to overcome the threat, leads to physiological damage.
Initially interested in the effects of sex hormones but became interested in the stressful impacts
his interventions had.
He explored rats to a variety of stressors
Focused on adrenocortical responses to stress
hypothesized mechanism for stress-illness relationship
Critisicms of General Adaptation Syndrome
very limited role to physiological factors
the assumption that responses to stress are uniform, because not all stressors produce same
how people respond to stress is influenced by their personality and perceptions.
He said that stress is an outcome, but it can occur while the event if going on or even before
Tend and Befriend (Taylor) in addition to fight or flight, humans respond to stress with social and
nuturant behaviour, especial characteristic of females because they tend of offspring, which is a complex task. Befriending affiliating with others and seeking social contact during stress helps in self
preservation and the protection of offspring.
Oxytocin stress hormone, rapidly released in times of stress. Its effects are influenced by
estrogen hormone. Increases the affiliative behaviour of all kinds, especially mothering. High
level of this more calm.
Opioids also contribute to affiliative responses to stress in females.
Primary Appraisal Process when an indvl confronts a new or changing environment, they engage in a
process of primary appraisal to determine the meaning of the event.
- Harm assessment of the damage that has already been done by an event.
- Threat assessment of possible future damage that may be brought about by the event.
- Primary appraisals of events as threats have important effects on physiological responses to
- Events may be appraised in terms of their challenge potential to overcome and even profit from
- Challenge appraisals are associated with more confident expectations of the ability to cope with
the stressful event, more favourable emotional reactions to the event, and lower blood pressure.
Secondary Appraisal Process the assessment of ones coping abilities and resources and whether they
will be sufficient to meet the harm, threat, and challenge of the event.
- Some responses are involuntary reactions to stress, whereas others are voluntary initiated by an
effort to cope.
- Cognitive responses to stress include beliefs about the harm or threat an event poses and beliefs
about its causes or controllability.
Physiology of Stress stress can cause short or long term consequences for health.
- Two interrelated systems are heavily involved in the stress response, the sympathetic
adrenomedullary system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis.
Sympathetic Activation events are encountered as harmful by cerebral cortex and SympNS is
- Sympathetic arousal stimulates the medulla of the adrenal glands which secretes catecholamines
- The HPA system is also activated, the hypothalamus releases corticotrophin releasing factor
that stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete ACTH which stimulates the adrenal cortex to release
- Cortisol acts to conserve stores of carbs and helps reduce inflammation and body to return to its
steady state after stress.
- HPA activation also produces growth hormone prolactin, secreted by pituitary gland.
- Repeated activation of HPA can compromise its functioning: cortisol levels may be altered, high
in morning and low during the afternoon, but people with chronic stress can show high levels in
afternoon. Flattening of diurnal rhythms.
Effects of Long Term Stress (result of HPA and sympathetic activation)
- Excessive discharge of catecholamines can lead to suppression of cellular immune functions and
ventricular arrhythmias or psychiatric disorders. Also, affects lipids levels and free fatty acids
- Corticosteroids have immunosuppressive effects destruction of neurons in the hippocampus
can lead to problems in verbal functioning, memory, and concentration and senility.
- Storage of fat in central visceral areas, rather than hips. (HPA)
- HPA activation depression common - Consequences of HPA are more significant than sympathetic
- Stress may also impair the immune systems capacity to respond to hormonal signals that
- Chronic insomnia can result from stressful events; sleep is an important pathway to disease
because it has restorative activity.
Individual Differences in Stress Reactivity
Reactivity the degree of change that occurs in autonomic, neuroendocrine, and/or immune responses as
a result of stress. People can have small or large responses depending on genetics and prenatally.
- Reactivity to stress can affect vulnerability to illness.
- People who reacted to stressors with high cortisol responses upper respiratory infections
- People who reacted to stressors with low immune responses upper respiratory infections if
under high stress
- High immune reactors did not show differences in upper ...therefore reactivity to stress is an
important factor that influences the effects that stress has on the body
- Inability to recover from a stressful event can be marker for the damage.
- Athletes under more stress showed a longer cortisol recovery because of the effect on immune
Allostatic Load pshysiological systems within the body fluctuate to meet demands from stress.
- Overtime the load builds up physiological cost to chronic exposure
- The build-up can be assessed by indicators: decrease in cell mediated immunity, inability to shut
off cortisol, lowered HR, increased epinephrine, high waist to hip ratio and volume of
- Damage increases if people cope with stress through a high fat diet, smoking or less exercise.
- can cause emotional distress, life change, task performance, heart rate and blood pressure,
- more likely to cause stress compared to positive events,
- have implications for the self concept producing loss of self esteem or erosion of a sense of
mastery or identity.
- People who hold negative views, positive life events have a detrimental effect on health.
Uncontrollable Events or unpredictable events are more stressful compared to controllable ones.
- Tied to immunosuppressive effects
- People who can predict the event have access to influencing it and experience it as less stressful
- Feeling of control mutes the subjective experience of stress but also influence biochemical rxns.
Ambiguous Events more stressful then clear cut events, person has no opportunity to take action.
- Time consumes in understanding the stressor
- Clear cut let the person find solutions; the ability to take action produces less distress.
Overloaded people more stressed than people with fewer tasks to perform
Which stressors? People may be more vulnerable to stress in central life (self) than in peripheral ones.
- Stress is subjective and objective both predict psychological distress and health complaints.
Are people able to adapt? Depends on the type of stressor, the subjective experience, and the indicator.