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Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - Stress and Its Effects.docx

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Western University
Psychology 2035A/B
Doug Hazlewood

CHAPTER 3: STRESS AND ITS EFFECTS THE NATURE OF STRESS  Stress can be a stimulus that presents difficult demands  Stress can be a response of physiological arousal by a troublesome event  It’s neither stimulus or response  it’s a special stimulus-response transaction in which one feels threatened or experiences loss or harm  Stress: any circumstances that threatens or are perceived to threaten one’s well-being  thereby tax one’s coping abilities STRESS IS AN EVERYDAY EVENT  1/3 of Americans say they live with extreme stress ; 1/2 believed their stress had increased over the last 5 years  Aftermath of natural disasters such as floods & earthquakes  higher rate of psychological problems & physical illnesses.  Other everyday events like waiting in line, misplacing something, bills are also stressful  A major stressful event such as going through a divorce can trigger a cascade of minor stressors  Minor stressors don’t necessarily cause minor effects  Scores on a scale measuring daily hassles were more strongly related to participants mental health than the scores on a scale measuring major life events were  Can have a cumulative or additive effect STRESS LIES IN THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER  Events that are stressful for one person could be routine for another  Primary Appraisal: initial evaluation of whether an event is 1. Irrelevant to you 2. Relevant, but not threatening 3. Stressful  Secondary appraisal : Evaluation of your coping resources & options for dealing with the stress. coping resources appear inadquate or stress likely to be taxed situation perceived as relevant and threatening coping resources no stress appear adequate stimulus event situation perceived as irrelevent or no stress harmless STRESSES MAY BE EMBEDDED IN THE ENVIRONMENT  Many kinds of stress come from environmental circumstances that individuals share w others  Ambient stress: Chronic environmental conditions that , although not urgent, are negatively valued & place adaptive demands on people  Examples: excessive noise, traffic, pollution  threaten well-being & impact physical health  Chronic exposure to high levels of noise  elevated blood pressure among children  Crowding is another example of environmental stress  High density  increased physiological arousal, psychological distress, social withdrawal  Excessive noise  greater release of stress hormones  Stress for those that live in areas that are prone to natural disasters OR susceptible to toxic activity (i.e. living near power plant)  Urban poverty and violence as another source  Exposure to community violence  anxiety, depression, anger, aggression among urban youth  Exposure traumatic events (children)  increased stress hormones STRESS IS INFLUENCED BY CULTURE  Culture sets context in which people experience & appraise stress  Culture change major source of stress in societies around the world  Modernization and urbanization  Shifting values and customs  Examples: ethnic cleansing of Kosovo (1999), Indonesia tsunami (2004)  Disparities in the Western world  Racial discrimination negatively affects mental health and well being  Declined over the years  Everyday discrimination  Verbal insults, negative evaluations, avoidance, denial of equal treatment, threats of aggression  PERCEIVED discrimination has been linked to GREATER psychological distress  Acculturation: changing to adapt to a new culture  New immigrants. Major source of stress related to reduced well being  Discrepancy b/w what individuals expect before immigrating and what they actually experience  acculturation stress MAJOR SOURCES OF STRESS  Acute stressors: threatening events that have a relatively short duration & a clear end point i.e. Waiting for a medical report, or flooding in your house  Chronic stressors: threatening events that have a relatively long duration and no readily apparent time limit i.e. Financial strains, debts, hostile boss, caring for a sick person over a long period of time  Anticipatory stressors: upcoming or future events that are perceived to be threatening ; we anticipate impact of an event even if it hasn’t happened yet i.e. Bad grades we could get, a breakup that could or could not occur  Affects psychologically and physically  4 major sources of stress FRUSTRATION  Frustration: occurs in a situation in which the pursuit of some goal is thwarted  When you want something and can’t have it i.e. Traffic jams  elicit anger and increase levels of stress (road rage)  Frustration  aggression  Failures & losses  Most are brief + insignificant  Noisy environment  frustrate desire for quiet  Frustration in workplace  burnout INTERNAL CONFLICT  “Should I or shouldn’t I?”  Internal conflict: occurs when 2+ incompatible motivations or behavioural impulses compete for expression  Conflict & distress  Higher levels of conflict associated with higher levels of psychological distress  3 types of conflicts:  Approach-approach conflict: a choice must be made b/w 2 attractive goals  Can choose just one of 2 goals  LEAST stressful  Reasonably happy ending  Avoidance-avoidance conflict: a choice must be made b/w 2 unattractive goals  Caught b/w a rock & a hard place  Most unpleasant & highly stressful  people delay their decision as long as possible  hope they can somehow escape conflict situation  Approach-avoidance conflict: a choice must be made about whether to pursue a single goal that has both attractive and unattractive aspects  Can be highly stressful  Produce vacillation  People go back and forth, beset by indecision that can create stress  Example: new job in a bad city CHANGE  Life change: any noticeable alterations in ones living circumstances that require readjustment  Disruptions of daily routines are stressful, even when changes are welcomed  Social Readjustment rating Scale (SRRS): measure life changes as a form of stress  Assigns numerical values to 43 major life events  supposed to reflect the magnitude of readjustment required by each change  criticisms of SRRS:  does not measure change exclusively  list of life changes on SSRS dominated by events that are clearly negative/undesirable  frustration (rather than change)  life change not crucial dimension measured by SRRS & undesirable/negative life events  stress tapped by scale  supporters of SRRS:  desirable life changes stressful for some, but not for others PRESSURE  pressure: involves expectations or demands that one behave in a certain way  pressure to perform: expected to execute tasks and responsibilities quickly, efficiently, and successfully  Businessmen expected to wear suits and ties  Suburban homeowners expected to keep their lawns nice  Stress resulting from academic pressure may impede academic performance  problematic escape behaviours (i.e. drinking)  Pressure is often self imposed, not necessarily from outside sources  People put stress on themselves to climb the corporate ladder or be perfect parents RESPONDING TO STRESS EMOTIONAL RESPONSES  Emotions are powerful, largely uncontrollable feelings, accompanied by physiological changes  Stress tends to elicit unpleasant emotions  Indian ocean tsunami; 84% of survivors showed signs of severe emotional distress, incl. depression & anxiety  Transcend time & culture Negative Emotions  No one-to-one connection between certain types of stressful events  some strong links between specific cognitive reactions to stress & specific emotions  Annoyance, anger and rage   frustration  Range from mild annoyance to uncontrollable rage  Apprehension, anxiety, and fear  More frequent than any other emotion  pressure to perform, uncertainty associated with change  anxiety  Dejection, sadness, and grief.  Routine setbacks  dejection  More profound ones (i.e. divorce or death)  grief stricken  5 negative emotions that often figure prominently in reactions to stress: envy, jealousy, disgust, guilt, shame Positive Emotions  Also occur during stress  People experience diverse array of pleasant emotions even during dire circumstances  9/11  Within dense cloud of anguish, positive emotions also emerged  people felt gratitude for safety of loved ones  Positive emotions do not vanish during times of stress  rather, they buffer resilient people against depression & fuel thriving  help people bounce back from negative emotions associated with stress  positive emotions  building social, intellectual, physical resources  helpful in dealing with stress & allow one to experience flourishing mental health Effects of Emotional Arousal  Painful emotions can serve as warnings that one needs to take action  High emotional arousal can sometimes interfere with attention and memory retrieval & impair judgement and decision making  Test anxiety: emotional arousal can hurt performance  Negative correlation b/w test related anxiety and exam performance  Students who display high test anxiety score low on exams  disruption of attention during test  Spend too much time worrying about how they’re doing & comparing to others  Ego depletion: don’t have self-control to get themselves back on course  Inverted U hypothesis: predicts that task performance should improve with increased emotional arousal  to a point after which further increases in arousal become disruptive and performance deteriorates  Plotting performance (y axis) against level of arousal (x axis) result in an upside down U.  Optimal level of arousal  Level of arousal at which performance peaks  Optimal level depends on complexity of task at hand  When tasks become MORE complex, optimal level of arousal (for peak performance) tends to DECREASE  Hypothesis is inconsistent & subject to varied interpretations  refine (not discard) PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES  Emotional responses can bring about important physiological changes. The “Fight-or-Flight” Response  The fight or flight response: a physiological reaction to threat that mobilizes an organism for attacking (fight) OR fleeing (flight) an enemy  Fight: BP rises, respiration increase, digestion slows  prep you to act & evolutionarily advantages  Autonomic nervous system: made up of nerves that connect to heart, blood vessels, smooth muscles, and glands  Controls involuntarily, visceral functions that people don’t normally think about (i.e. HRs, digestion, perspiration)  Parasympathetic nervous system: conserves bodily resources  Slows HR & promotes digestion  help body save and store energy  Sympathetic nervous system: mediates fight or flight response  Mobilizes bodily resources for emergencies  Fighting and fleeing less adaptive for females b/c  Of their care for children  response could endanger children  They’ll tend to get help and support rather than fleeing  when frightened female infants showed more approach behaviours toward their mothers than male infants  oxytocin (hormone) signals need for affiliation in females in times of social distress  most modern stressors cannot be handled simply through fight or flight  work pressure, marital problems financial problems etc.  req. more complex responses  chronic stressors would leave one in state of constant physiological arousal The General Adaptation Syndrome  Hans Selye (1936, 1956, 1982)  Animals were exposed to unpleasant stimuli (heat, cold, pain, etc)  Concluded that stress reactions are non specific  do not vary according to the specific type of circumstances encountered b/c patterns of physiological arousal in animals were largely the same regardless of which unpleasant stimulus elicited.  He called all this “stress”  General adaptation syndrome: a model of the body’s stress response, consisting of 3 stages  (1) alarm (2) resistance (3)exhaustion  Alarm reaction: occurs when an organism recognizes existence of a threat  Physiological arousal increase as the body musters its resources to combat the challenge  If stress continues  second phase of general adaptation syndrome  Stage of Resistance  Physiological arousal continues to be higher than normal, although it may level off somewhat as the organism becomes accustomed to the threat.  Then Stage of Exhaustion:  If stress cannot be overcome, body’s resources may be depleted, and physiological arousal will decrease  Eventually, can collapse from exhaustion  Resistance declines  “diseases of adaptation”  Criticisms o Ignores individual differences in appraisal of stress o Belief that stress reactions are nonspecific Brain-Body Pathways  Brain sends signals to endocrine system along 2 major pathways  Endocrine system: consists of glands that secrete chemicals called hormones into the bloodstream  Hypothalamus: small structure near base of brain appears to initiate action along both pathways  First pathway is routed through autonomic nervous system  Activates the sympathetic division of the ANS  Involves stimulation central part of the adrenal glands  release large amounts of catecholamines into the blood stream  hormones radiate throughout body  produce physiological changes  Body is mobilized for action  HR & blood flow increase  more blood to brain & muscles  Respiration & O2 consumption speed up  facilitate alertness  Digestive processes inhibited  conserve energy  Pupils dilate  increase visual sensitivity  Second pathway involves more direct communication between brain and endocrine system  Pituitary gland: receives signal from hypothalamus  Secretes ACTH (hormone) stimulates outer part of adrenal glands (adrenal cortex)
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