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Chapter 3

HSS 1101 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Psy, Adrenocorticotropic Hormone, Whenu Savenow

Health Sciences
Course Code
HSS 1101

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Chapter 3: Coping with Life Stressors
Stress itself is not positive or negative; however, it is how we respond to stress that is positive or
oStress is also subjective
oOften we think stress as externally imposed factor that threatens or makes a demand on
our minds and bodies
Most stress is internally self-imposed and is usually the result of an internal state or emotional
tension that occurs in response to various demands of living
oCan be measured psychologically and physiologically
oStress is subjective because if you feel like your tasks ahead outweigh your skills then
you have self-imposed stress
oMay be tangible or emotional (ex: mixed emotions of meeting your sig others parents for
the first time)
oAdjustment: how one deals with the stress
oAs adjustment occurs in life, one might reach a state of strain – the process of adjusting
or resisting a stressor causes wear and tear on the body
Distress and Eustress:
oBoth provide the occasion for personal growth and personal satisfaction
oThe most concerning is distress – the ones in which we mostly have no control over
Stress: our mental and physical responses to the demands placed upon us
Stressor: a physical, social or mental event or condition that forces us to adjust to it
Eustress: stress perceived as “good” because it potentially results in positive change
Distress: stress perceived as “bad” because it potentially results in negative change
The Mind-Body Connection: Physical Responses
The mind body connection is related to psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) which involves research
regarding the complex interactions between the physiological and psychological systems of the
When stress is experienced, the complex intricacies of physical and emotional reactions to it
cause the body to wear down over time
oAs a result, stress is often described as a disease of prolonged arousal
oResearch from the Framingham study suggests that highly stressed individuals were sig
more likely to experience cardiovascular disease

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oStudies with monkeys also showed that exposure to random stress led to increased
disease and mortality rates
oAnother study showed that stress weakens the immune system
Stress and Impaired Immunity
Much of the PNI data on stress and immune functioning focused on the hypothesis that during
period of prolonged stress, elevated levels of adrenal hormones, including cortisol, destroy or
reduce the ability for WBC known as “natural killer T-cells”
Kill T-cells aid in the immune response, and when they are suppressed, the body is less able to
combat illness
Considerable research supports the hypothesis of a relationship between increased stress levels
and greater risk of disease in times of grief, social disruptions, poor mood, etc.
The Look of Stress
Too much stress can lead to hair loss in both M and W
oThe most common is called telogen effluvium (occurs most in individuals who have lost
someone in their family, or lost a lot of weight, or had a hard pregnancy); this condition
pushes colonies of hair into a resting phase
Over time, brushing or washing the hair will result in hair loss (in clumps) to fall
oAlopecia areata occurs when stress triggers WBC to attack and destroy hair follicles,
usually in patches
oThe good thing is that these hair loss conditions can be reversed with good and proper
sleep, good nutrition and stress management
Stress and weight gain
oStress has been linked to belly fat
oStress increases levels of hormones, such as cortisol, which stimulates the release of
glucose into the bloodstream
When blood sugar rises, insulin is released to bring it down in the blood and if
this system is prolonged then the insulin causes fat cells to enlarge and fat being
able to be more readily stored
Also increases the risk for pre-diabetes and diabetes
May also slow the metabolism
oCortisol can also make you crave starchier foods and make you more hungry
The General Adaptation Syndrome

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Every living organism attempts to maintain a state of homeostasis – a balance of physical and
psychological functioning
When a stress is perceived, the mind and body adjust with an adaptive response, or attempt to
restore homeostasis
oEvery individual’s reactions are different and are different per stressor
The physiological and psychological responses to stress follow a pattern first recognized in 1936
by Selye
oThe 3-stage response to stress is called the general adaptation syndrome
oStages are: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion
Homeostasis: a balance of rhythmic physical and mental state in which the body’s systems function
Adaptive response: form of adjustment in which the mind and body work to restore homeostasis
General adaptation syndrome: the pattern followed in our physiological and psychological responses to
stress, consisting of alarm, resistance, and exhaustion phase
ANS: the portion of the central nervous system that regulates bodily functions and is not normally
consciously controlled
PNS: part of the ANS responsible for stimulating the stress response
Hypothalamus: a section of the brain that controls the SNS and directs the stress response
Epinephrine: also called adrenaline, a hormone that stimulates bodily systems
Alarm Phase
During this phase, a stressor is perceived which disturbs homeostasis
The brain subconsciously perceives the stressor and prepares the body for flight or fight
oThe subconscious perception of the stressor stimulates the areas in the brain responsible
for emotions
oThe emotional stimulation in turn turns on physical reactions associated with the stressor
oThis process usually only takes a few seconds
When the mind perceives a stressor (either real or imaginary) the cerebral cortex, the region of
the brain that interprets the nature of an event, is called to attention
oWhen the cerebral cortex detects the threat it triggers the ANS to prepare the body for
action – fight or flight
The ANS is the proportion in the central nervous system that regulates bodily functions that are
not normally under conscious control (heart rate, breathing, glandular function)
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