Chapter 15: Stress & Coping, Personality, Pain, Healthy Behaviour
THE NATURE OF STRESS
Stress: pattern of cognitive appraisals, psychological response and behavioural tendencies that
occur in response to a perceived imbalance between demands and resources available.
Psychologists view stress as:
o As an eliciting stimuli, stressor, noun “all kinds of stress in my life, exams, lost wallet, broken car”
o As a response: cognitive, physiological, behavioral component; “feeling all stressed out, tense body and can’t
concentrate, messing up all week” – presence of negative emotions
o As a transition between the organism and the environment – combination of stimulus and response
Stressors: eliciting stimuli/events that place strong demands on us, physically or mentally
Imbalance between demands and resources
Range in severity:
o Microstressors: daily hassles, annoyances, school and family problems (- to very severe stressors?)
o Catastrophic events: unexpectedly and typically affect large numbers of people (eg natural diasters, wars)
o Major negative events : requiring major adaptation - being a victim of major crime or sexual abuse, death of loved
ones, career failure, major illness
Stressor characteristics: intensity/severity, Duration, predictability, controllability, chronicity
A) Cognitive(Richard Lazarus)
Starting point to stress response is our appraisal to the situations:
1) Appraisal of tdemands of the situation (primary appraisal)
o Eg job interview: how difficult interview will be? How badly you want it?
2) Appraisal of tresources available to cope with it (secondary appraisal)
o Knowledge and abilities, verbal skills, social resources
o If you believe the demands exceed your resources, you will experience stress
3) Judgement of what theconsequences of the situation could be
o If fail to cope, what is the seriousness of the consequences? And the likelihood that they will occur
o If appraising more costly, and high chance of occurring, will increase perceived stressfulness
4) Appraisal of the persomeaning that is, what the outcome might imply about us.
o Does your self-worth depend on how successful you are in the situation?
Distortion and mistake in appraisals can happen. People can overestimate seriousness of situation, underestimate own
resources, exaggerate seriousness/likelihood of consequences, or irrational self-beliefs – creating inappropriate stress
Body also responds, and even though appraisals being first, both appraisals and physiological responses mutually affect one
another. Eg if body is shaking and sweating, we may appraise the situation as more threatening than we did initially.
B) Physiological responses (Selye)
General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) – physiological response pattern to strong and prolonged stressors
1) Alarm reaction: rapid increase in arousal, releasing stress hormones, increase heart rate and respiration (more oxygen), dilates
pupil (more sensitive to light and enhances vision), slows digestion (more blood to muscles)
o Endocrine response – releasing cortisol (stress hormones): increase in blood sugars, suppresses immune system,
suppresses inflammation so that injured tissues do not swell.
o Fight or flight response – increase ability to confront source of stress or retreat from it. Faster movement, more
sensitive to visual stimuli, injury is less likely to generate movement-limiting swelling
o This stage does not last, so body want to return to natural state, but if stressor continues, response continue and enter
o Resources are being depleted, but stage can last for a while
o Resources are dangerously depleted
o Increase vulnerability to disease, collapse or even death
o The more severe the stress, the sooner body will reach this stage STRESS AND HEALTH
Stressors are so traumatic that they can have a strong and long-lasting psychological impact
Relationship between negative life events and psychological distress?
No causal interpretation because of 2 path reverses.
People’s level of distress may influence their reporting of negative life events – eg distress people may be more likely to
remember negative things, tend to view more events as negative, evoke negative reactions from others
Third variable? Neuroticism: a heightened tendency to experience negative emotions and get themselves into stressful
Rape Trauma syndrome – for months or years after rape, victims may feel nervous and fear another attack by the rapist.
Have nightmares, frightened when they are alone, outdoors, or in crowds.
Frequently report decreased enjoyment of sexual activity.
Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD
A severe anxiety disorder that happen to victims when they are exposed to extreme stress or traumatic life events.
Four major groups of symptoms:
o Severe anxiety, physiological arousal, distress
o Painful, uncontrollable reliving of the events (flashback, dreams, fantasies)
o Emotional numbing and avoidance of stimuli associated with trauma
o Intense “survivor guilt” in instances where others were killed the individual survived
Traumas caused by human (war, rape, assault, torture) cause more sever PTSD than do natural disaster
Women are more likely to develop PTSD
Usually develops within 3 months, but can happen years later too
Can also increase vulnerability to other disorders – eg women double the risk of developing alcohol-related problems in future
Illness and Health
Stress can cause illness from common cold to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, sudden death
Some are less immediate, but still severe, (eg After death of a spouse, widows develop their own health problems)
Stress can worsen pre-existing medical conditions
Increase risk of cancer development
Research showed that marital conflict stress can decrease immune functioning, which increased the risk of illness
Also affects behavior of people and increase illness. Eg diabetics might be less likely to regulate diets and take their medicine,
resulting in increased risk
Some may quit exercising
Can lead to smoking, alcohol drug use, sleep loss, under/over eating, etc.
Effects on hippocampus (learning and memory):
o Prolonged exposure can lead to deterioration and memory impairment
Can improve with additional stimulation (daily handling) when young
o Mild stresses can strengthen emotional, cognitive and hormonal resistance to stressors later in life
o Rat pups stimulated when young, make babies that also have better recovery to stress – this enhanced stress-recovery
ability can be passed from generation to generation
VULNERABILITY AND PROTECTIVE FACTORS
Vulnerability factors: increase people’s susceptibility to stressful events
o Eg lack of support network, poor coping skills, tendencies to become anxious
Protective factors: environmental or personal resources that help people cope more effectively with stress
o Eg social support, coping skills, personality factors (eg optimism)
Social isolation is a form of vulnerability
o Weak social ties - more likely to die first
Social support enhance immune system functioning
o More social support – produce more immune cells, more disease-resistant
When part of a social group, have more identity, more meaning in lives greater psychological well-being
o Reduce loneliness, more sensed of control when you know there are people to support you
o Friends also prevent you from coping with stress in maladaptive ways 9alcohol drug etc.)
Having someone to talk to about traumas also enhance immune functioning.
o Fewer visit to doctors However results are kind of controversial: they could choose to purge their emotions or not, so perhaps their personality trait
contribute to emotional disclosure and health consequences
Cognitive Protective Factor – importance of beliefs
Hardiness: stress-protective factor
o Commitment, control, challenge
Hardy people a