PSY240H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Acute Stress Reaction, Adjustment Disorder, Autonomic Nervous System

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Published on 15 Apr 2013
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PSY240 CHAPTER 5 STRESS AND ADJUSTMENT DISORDERS
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress refer both to adjustive demands placed on an organism and to the organism’s internal biological
and psychological responses to such demands
Refer to adjustive demands as stressors, effects they create within an organism as stress, and efforts to
deal with them as coping strategies
Stress by-product of poor or inadequate coping
Stress can be broken down into:
Eustress positive stress
Distress negative stress
Both types tax a person’s resources and coping skills, but distress potential to do more damage
Axis I categories - Adjustment disorder, acute stress disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder
involves patterns of psychological and behavioural disturbances that occur in response to identifiable
stressors
Differences: severity of disturbances, and nature of stressors and time frame which disorders occur
- Stressors can be identified as causal factors and specific on Axis IV
Categories of Stressors
Adjustive demands (stressors) stem from sources that fall into three basic categories: [closely related]
1 frustrations, 2 conflicts, 3 pressures
Frustrations
Can be difficult for a person to cope with because they often lead to self-devaluation, making person
feel that they have failed in some way or is somehow incompetent
Conflicts
Stress results from two or more incompatible needs or motives, may be classified as approach-
avoidance, double-approach, and double-avoidance types
Pressures
To achieve specific goals or to behave in particular ways, pressures force us to speed up, redouble our
effort, or change direction of goal-oriented behaviour, which can tax our coping resources or lead to
maladaptive behaviour
Given stressor may involve elements of all three categories
Usually confront a continuously changing pattern of interrelated, sometimes contradictory
demands
Table 5.1 Classification of Conflict Situations
Approach-avoidance conflicts involve strong tendencies to approach and to avoid the same goal
Double-approach conflicts involve choosing between two or more desirable goals
Double-avoidance conflicts involves choices are between undesirable alternatives, task to decide
which course of action will be least stressful
Factors Predisposing a Person to Stress
Severity of stress gauged by degree to which it disrupts functioning
Actual degree of disruption that occurs or threatens to occur depends on several factors (listed
below)
Everyone faces unique pattern of adjustive demands because of how people perceive and
interpret similar situations differently and no two people face exactly same pattern of stressors
Nature of Stressor
- Longer stressor operates, more severe its effects
- Appear to have cumulative effect
- Sometimes key stressors in person’s life centre on continuing difficult life situation, these
stressors considered chronic
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PSY240 CHAPTER 5 STRESS AND ADJUSTMENT DISORDERS
- Symptoms of stress intensify when person is closely involved in immediately traumatic situation
The Experience of Crisis
Crisis refers to time when a stressful situation approaches or exceeds the adaptive capacities of a
person or group
Distinguish from stress: traumatic situation or crisis overwhelms a person’s ability to cope, whereas
lesser stressors do not necessarily overwhelm the person
Crisis intervention has been widely used to provide psychological help in times of severe/special stress
Life Changes
Place new demands on us, so may be stressful, the faster the changes the greater the stress
- Psychosocial environment can play significant role in causing disorders or precipitating their
onset (even in strongly biological disorders)
Social Readjustment Scale objective method for measuring cumulative stress to which a person has
been exposed over a period of time, measures life stress in terms of life change units (LCU) so the more
stressful the event, the more LCUs assigned to it, found that people with scores of 300 or more for
recent months were at significant risk for getting major illness within next two years
Impact of Event Scale measures person’s reaction to stressful situation by identifying stressor, and
posing series of questions to determine sorts of stress-related symptoms that person is experiencing
Limitation: serve only as general indicator of distress and do not provide useful information about
specific types of disorders, but evidence supports stressfulness of life changes
Life Event and Difficulty Schedule involves semistructured interview that places life event rating
variables in clearly defined context in order to increase interrater reliability, makes it possible to assess
meaning of event to individual more directly
A Person’s Perception of the Stressor
Different reactions that people have to environmental events due partially to how they perceive
(appraise) the situation, people make two kinds of appraisals; primary appraisal (“Is this a threat?”) and
secondary appraisal (“Can I cope?”)
- New adjustive demands that have not been anticipated (no ready-made coping strategies) will
place person under severe stress
- Knowing what to expect adds predictability to the situation, which reduces stress and anxiety
- Trauma always leaves the person transformed in some way and one natural outcome of the
stress process is adaptation and growth
- Individuals’ ability to perceive some benefit in adaptive to consequences of disaster depended
on nature of disaster
Individual’s Stress Tolerance
Stress tolerance person’s ability to withstand stress without becoming seriously impaired
- People vary in overall vulnerability to stressors
- Stress due to a combination of genetic factors and environmental experiences
- Person may have failed to learn effective adaptive strategies for certain kinds of stressors
Lack of External Resources and Social Supports
Evidence suggests that positive social and family relationships can moderate effects of stress on person
Lack of external supports can make given stressor more potent and weaken person’s capacity to cope
with it
- Person whose spouse is experiencing psychological disturbance likely to experience more stress
than one who spouse is psychologically better adjusted
Stress of illness is compounded by loss of support
Coping with Stress
Sometimes, inner factors *person’s frame of reference, motives, competencies, or stress tolerance] play
dominant role in determining their coping strategies
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PSY240 CHAPTER 5 STRESS AND ADJUSTMENT DISORDERS
Some people create stress for themselves rather than coping, stressful situations can be related to
person’s beliefs or interpretations
Three interacting levels:
1 on biological level [immunological defences and damage-repair mechanisms], 2 on psychological
and interpersonal level [learned coping patterns, self-defences, and support from family and friends], 3
on sociocultural level [group resources]
Failure of coping on any of these levels may increase person’s vulnerability on other levels
Coping with stress, person confronted with two challenges:
1 meeting requirements of stressor, 2 protecting themselves from psychological or physical damage
or disorganization, challenges can be met in following two general ways:
Task-oriented coping
Task-oriented response may involve making changes in one’s self, one’s surroundings, or both
Action may involve retreating from problem, attacking directly, or trying to find workable compromise
Defence-oriented coping
Defence-oriented response behaviour is directed primarily at protecting oneself from hurt and
disorganization rather than resolving the situation
Two types of responses 1) psychological damage-repair mechanisms [crying, repetitive talking,
mourning], 2) ego-defence or self-defence mechanisms [denial, repression relieve tension and anxiety
and protect person from hurt and devaluation], protect self 1) by denying, distorting, or restricting
person’s experience, 2) reducing emotional or self-involvement, and/or 3) counteracting threat or
damage
Ego-defence mechanisms considered maladaptive when they become primary means of coping
with stressors and applied in excess
View adaptation to stressors in three modes: defensive, proactive, and accommodative
Defensive-responding responding efforts attempt to reject problem/threat
Proactive approach [like task-oriented] individual attempts to cope with stress by modifying situation
Accommodative efforts person re-evaluates situation and adapts to changed circumstances by
modifying goals and searching for more positive ways of responding to the crisis
Only successful coping reaction is one that stabilizes or increases well-being
THE EFFECTS OF SEVERE STRESS
Personality or psychological decompensation- when stressors sustained or severe, there is a lowering of
adaptive functioning
Severe stress can exact a high cost in terms of lowered efficiency, depletion of adaptive
resources, wear and tear on biological system, and sometimes in death
Using resources to meet one severe stress, an organism may suffer a lowering of tolerance for other
stressors, coping resources are limited
Homeostasis balanced state in which an organism finds itself when basic biological needs are met
When organism is stressed, thrown out of homeostatic balance
Allostasis process of adaptation or achieving stability through change
Example to meet demands of stressor, organism mobilize bodily resources via action of adrenaline,
and under prolonged stress, bodily resources activated on continuing basis so they fail to shut down
when not needed
Allostatic load frequent mobilization of these resources [systems] under stress, results in wear and
tear of body
Prolonged stress may lead to
1) Pathological overreponsiveness to stressors “last straw” response
2) Pathological insensitivity to stressors loss of hope or extreme apathy in “stressed out” people
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Document Summary

Stress refer both to adjustive demands placed on an organism and to the organism"s internal biological and psychological responses to such demands. Refer to adjustive demands as stressors, effects they create within an organism as stress, and efforts to deal with them as coping strategies. Stress by-product of poor or inadequate coping. Both types tax a person"s resources and coping skills, but distress potential to do more damage. Axis i categories - adjustment disorder, acute stress disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder involves patterns of psychological and behavioural disturbances that occur in response to identifiable stressors. Differences: severity of disturbances, and nature of stressors and time frame which disorders occur. Stressors can be identified as causal factors and specific on axis iv. Adjustive demands (stressors) stem from sources that fall into three basic categories: [closely related] 1 frustrations, 2 conflicts, 3 pressures.

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