Abnormal Psych – Chapter 5 Summary
Stressors are adjustive demands (like not having enough money to pay for rent) to the effects they create
within an organism as stress.
Coping strategies are the efforts to deal with stress.
Stress is a by-product of poor or inadequate coping.
All positive and negative situations that require adjustment can be stressful.
◦Eustress is positive stress and distress is negative stress.
Categories of stressors
can be both internal or external
examples from the environment include prejudice, discrimination, death of a loved one, etc
examples of personal limitations include physical handicaps, loneliness, guilt, etc.
Frustrations will often leave a person feeling inadequate or incompetent.
stress results from the simultaneous occurrence of two or more incompatible needs or motives.
Conflicts that everyone has to cope are classified as:
◦approach-avoidance: involve strong tendencies to approach and to avoid the same goal.
▪Someone wants a job they've had their eye on for years BUT someone they hate works in that job
as well. Do they get their dream job and work with someone they despise or do they not take the
job to avoid that person?
◦Double-approach: involves choosing between two or more desirable goals. The experience may cause
more eustress than distress, the stress is still real and it's difficult. The person will have to give up
◦double-avoidance: are those in which the choices are between undesirable alternatives. Neither choice
will bring satisfaction so they have to decide between the lesser of the two.
pressure forces us to speed up, redouble our effort or change the direction of our behaviour.
They can originate from external and internal sources.
The severity of stress is determined by how disruptive it is to normal functioning.
Everyone will face a unique pattern of adjustive domains since they will face different problems and face
the same problems differently.
Stressors have a cumulative effect; there's always that “final straw”
Stressors that are ongoing are known as chronic stressors.
Stressors also influence each other; if several stressors occur at the same time, they will often be felt as
more intense than if the stressors had occurred separately.
Effects from stressors are also felt more or less intensely depending on how close/far away one is from the
incident; whether it's through a relationship (degrees of separation) or through physical proximity.
Crisis: refers to a time when a stressful situation approaches or exceeds the adaptive capacity of a person
or a group. Coping techniques we usually rely on cannot help us cope with a crisis. Ie: a flood, the collapse
of the World Trade Centres, a rape, etc.
It is possible for someone to become better adjusted after they experience a crisis because they will often
learn new coping mechanisms.
Crisis intervention provides psychological help in times of severe and special stress.
LCU = life changing units, a scale that measures life stress.
◦Death of a spouse = 100 LCU
◦Divorce = 73 LCU
◦Vacation = 13 LCU
◦People who have scores of 300 LCU or higher were at significant risk of getting a major illness within
the next two years.
Impact of Event Scale, which measures a person's reaction to a stressful situation by identifying the
stressor and the stress-related symptoms associated with that stressor.
◦This scale has been heavily criticized including the subjectivity of the people's interpretations of
events, failure to take into account the relevance of items for the populations studied, depending on
what mood the participant is in at the time of the test, etc.
People make two different types of appraisals when evaluating environmental effects:
◦1. primary appraisal: Is this a threat?
◦2. secondary appraisal: Can I cope?
If someone sees an event as threatening and doesn't think they can cope, they will most likely have
How a person appraisals something is also important; if someone sees their situation as being utterly
hopeless, it will cause more anxiety than someone who's in the exact same situation who doesn't see it as,
as large of a threat.
Being able to prepare for stress will reduce the severity when it comes (ie: preparing for a surgery VS a
Generally, someone will benefit from their stress because it will often draw them closer to friends and
family and will leave the person transformed in some way.
◦But, being able to find the “silver lining” also depends on what trauma the person experienced. For
example, someone can find it with a tornado but not an airplane crash.
Children are particularly vulnerable to severe stressors such as natural disasters, war, etc.
Stress tolerance refers to a person's ability to withstand stress without becoming seriously impaired.
◦People's vulnerability to stress will also have physical effects that render them more likely to become
sick than others under stressful situations.
◦Stress tolerance is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
▪The person may have failed to learn adaptive functions.
▪If the person had early traumatic experiences; someone who was assaulted early on in life is
vulnerable to later abuse or assault.
A person's social circle can help moderate their stress. The more people around them they have to help
them cope, the better they will handle their stress.
◦However, people who are experiencing stress can eventually rub off on the people they're leaning on;
the stress will eventually affect other people.
Religion can also help; rituals provide a lot of comfort for people.
Previous experience also helps a person; someone who has dealt with one experience in the past will deal
with it better in the future.
Some people create stress for themselves rather than coping. One may perceive a situation with anxiety
and stress due to a per-existing stressors.
3 interacting levels of coping with stress:
1. biological level – there are immunological defences and damage-repair mechanisms
2. psychological and interpersonal level – learned coping patterns.
3. Sociocultural level – groups of resources such as labour unions, religious organizations and law