Psychology 1000 Chapter Notes - Chapter 15: Adrenal Gland, Sympathetic Nervous System, Hans Selye

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10 Nov 2011
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- Stress is viewed by psychologists as:
oa stimulus that causes us to feel stressed
oa response to the stimulus
oa organism-environment interaction (responses based on a perceived imbalance
between situational demands and the resources needed to cope)
-Stress: a pattern of cognitive appraisals, physiological responses, and behavioural
tendencies that occurs in response to an imbalance between situational demands and
coping resources
-Stressors: events that place strong demands on us and require us to adapt in some way
-Microstressors: the daily hassles and everyday annoyances (school, job, family…)
-Catastrophic events: natural disasters, war, etc.
-Major negative events: victim of a crime, death of a loved one, etc.
Measuring Stressful Life Events
-Life-event scales: quantify the amount of life stress that a person has experienced over a
given period of time
-indicate whether a particular event occurred and their appraisal of if it was positive or
negative and if it was a major event or just everyday event
The Stress Response
-4 aspects of the stress appraisal process:
1. appraisal of the demands of the situation (primary appraisal)
2. appraisal of the resources available to cope with it (secondary appraisal)
3. judgments of what the consequences of the situation could be
4. appraisal of the personal meaning or what the outcome implies about us
-Primary appraisal: is the situation benign, neutral/irrelevant, or threatening, and its
significance for your well-being
-Secondary appraisal: perceived ability to cope with the situation and the resources to
deal with it (knowledge, verbal skills, social resources, etc.)
-overestimation of seriousness, underestimating resources, exaggeration of consequence
increase stress
Chronic Stress and the GAS
-Hans Selye described a physiological response pattern to strong and prolonged
stressors general adaptation syndrome (GAS)
-Alarm reaction: sudden activation of the sympathetic nervous system and release of
stress hormones by the endocrine system
ocortisol triggers an increase in blood sugars/suppresses immune system
-Resistance: body’s resources continue to be mobilized so a person can still function in the
presence of the stressor (can last as long as resources remain)
-Exhaustion: body’s resources are dangerously depleted increasing vulnerability to
diseases, collapse, and even death
oWeakest system in your body will go first (immune system, heart, etc…)
Stress and Psychological Well-Being
-some stressors are so traumatic that they have a long-lasting psychological impact
oeg, Holocaust survivors, war veterans
-rape trauma syndrome: months, even years after the rape victims are nervous and may
fear another attack
odecreased enjoyment of sexual activity
onightmares and a fear of being alone
-the more negative life events people report the more likely they are also to report
symptoms of psychological distress
-“stress causes distress” or “distress causes stress”?
-Psychological distress also might cause more negative events to occur in people’s lives
because of their own behaviour
-Neuroticism: a heightened tendency to experience negative emotions and to get
themselves into stressful situations
Stress and Illness
-stress can combine with physical and psychological factors to influence the entire
spectrum of physical illness (cold, cancer, diabetes, etc.)
-widowers and widows show a higher mortality rate following the death of a spouse
-Stats Canada: adults who experience high stress are at risk of dev. chronic health
conditions (eg. Arthritis, rheumatism, bronchitis or emphysema)
oMen heart disease
oWomen asthma and migraines
-Life stress can decrease immune function, worsen pre-existing medical conditions, and
increase the risk of death and illness
-Excess secretions of stress hormones by the adrenal gland can affect the activity of the
heart and damage the lining of arteries, and cause heart attacks and strokes by
contributing to build up of fats in arteries
-Exposure of the hippocampus to prolonged stress hormones causes deterioration of the
hippocampus, resulting in memory impairment
-Vulnerability factors: increase ppl’s susceptibility to stressful events lack of support
network, poor coping skills, pessimism
-Protective factors: environmental or personal resources that help people cope more
effectively with stressful events (social support, optimism, etc.)
Social Support
-knowing we can rely on others for help in times of crisis helps blunt impact of stress
-found people with weak social ties are twice as likely to die during the 12 year study
-social support increases immune system functioning
-emotional “purging” (having someone to talk to) those who had purged themselves of
negative emotions showed enhance immune functioning
Cognitive Protective Factors: The Importance of Beliefs
-three C’s of hardiness: commitment, control, challenge
-Hardy people are committed to their work, family, and believe what they do is important
-View themselves as having control over their outcomes
-View the demands of a situation as a challenge rather than a threat
Coping Self-Efficacy
-Coping self-efficacy: the conviction that we can perform the behaviours necessary to
cope successfully (if we believe we can overcome a situation the stress level is reduced)
-can come from watching others successfully cope w/ stressors, or through encouragement
-having a rosy view of the future, in the long run things will work out
-lower risk of anxiety and depression, and live longer
Finding Meaning in Stressful Life Events
-religious beliefs can help cope with stress, or be a disadvantage if patients view god as
pushing them, or expressed anger towards god, clergy, etc
Physiological Reactivity
-differences in physiological responses make people more or less vulnerable to stressors
-high neuroticism have prolonged autonomic responses and are more vulnerable to stress
-physiological toughness: a stress hormone pattern involving a relation between two
classes of hormones in the adrenal glands (catecholamines and corticosteroids)
ocortisol arousal effects last longer and are more damaging than those produced by
ocortisol reduces immune system while catecholamines increase system function
-Physiological toughness consists of…
1. a low resting level of cortisol, low level of its secretion in response to
stressors and a quick return to normal levels once stressor is gone
2. a low resting level of catecholamines but a quick response when the
stressor occurs and a decline in secretion when the stressor is gone
-provides the max. short-term mobilization of resources needed to deal with the stressor
but prevents the eventual depletion of catecholamines and the effects of exhaustion in
-there is more vulnerability when the body responds with cortisol rather than
Problem-focused coping:
-attempt to confront and deal with demands directly or change it so its not stressful
oplanning, problem solving, assertive confrontation eg studying for an exam
Emotion-focused coping:
-attempt to manage the emotional responses that result from it
oAcceptance, denial, repression, positive reinterpretation, wishful thinking, etc
Seeking social support:
-turning to other for assistance and emotional support in times of stress
Effectiveness of Coping Strategies
-problem-focused and social support were most effective
-emotion-focused involve avoiding and poor adjustment