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Ch 3 Summary

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Psychology 2035A/B
Doug Hazlewood

Chapter 3- Stress and Its Effects The Nature of Stress  Stress is any circumstance that threatens or is perceived to threaten one’s well-being and thereby taxes one’s coping abilities  One-third of Americans surveyed reported “living with extreme stress”, and nearly half believed that their stress had “increased over the past 5 years”  A major stressful event, such as going through a divorce, can trigger a cascade of minor stressors, such as looking for an attorney, taking on new household responsibilities, and so forth  Routine hassles may have significant negatives effects on a person’s mental and physical health o Researchers found that 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  Stressful events can have a cumulative or additive impact  Certain personal characteristics such as resilience and optimism can buffer the distressing effects of daily hassles o Hassles that evoke strong negative emotions are the ones most related to stress  Perceiving a situation as threatening elicits negative emotions  Primary appraisal is an initial evaluation of whether an event is 1) irrelevant to you, 2) relevant but not threatening, or 3) stressful  Secondary appraisal is an evaluation of your coping resources and options for dealing with stress  People’s appraisals about stressful events alter the impact of the events themselves o Negative interpretations of events are associated with increased distress surrounding these events  Some people are more prone to feel threatened by life’s difficulties than are others  Ambient stress consists of chronic environmental conditions that, although not urgent, are negatively valued and place adaptive demands on people  Crowding is a major source of environmental stress o An association between high density and increased physiological arousal, psychological distress, and social withdrawal  Living in arrears that are at risk for disaster o Residents in an area prone to earthquakes or hurricanes may experience increased stress  Urban poverty and violence is also a source of environmental stress  Children who report recent exposure to traumatic events show increased stress hormones  Culture sets the context in which people experience and appraise stress  Cultural change such as increased modernization and urbanization and shifting values and customs, has been a major source of stress in many societies around the world  Racial discrimination negatively affects mental health and well-being o Minority group members may experience stress not only from explicit discrimination but also from the subjective perception of discrimination in ambiguous situations o Perceived discrimination has been linked to greater psychological distress, higher levels of depression, and decreased well-being for a variety of minority groups including sexual minorities  Acculturation, or changing to adapt to a new culture, is a major source of stress related to reduced well-being o Holds even for children  The discrepancy between what individuals expect before immigrating and what they actually experience once they do immigrate is related to the amount of acculturation stress they report Major Sources of Stress  Acute stressors are threatening events that have a relatively short duration and a clear end-point  Chronic stressors are threatening events that have a relatively long duration and no readily apparent time limit  Anticipatory stressors are upcoming or future events that are perceived to be threatening o Anticipatory stress can affect us psychologically and physically just as strongly as actual stressors do Four Major Sources of Stress:  Frustration o Frustration occurs in any situation in which the pursuit of some goal is thwarted o Some frustrations, such as failures and losses, can be sources of significant stress o Most frustrations are brief and insignificant o Frustration appears to be the culprit at work when people feel troubled by environmental stress  Frustration also plays a role in the aggressive behaviours associated with “road rage”  Internal Conflict o Internal conflict occurs when two or more incompatible motivations or behavioural impulses compete for expression o Higher levels of conflict associated with higher levels of psychological distress o Approach-approach conflict: a choice must be made between two attractive goals  The approach-approach type tends to be the least stressful  Typically have a reasonably happy ending, whichever way you decide to go o Avoidance-avoidance conflict: a choice must be made between two unattractive goals  Avoidance-avoidance conflicts are most unpleasant and highly stressful  People keep delaying their decision as long as possible, hoping that they will somehow be able to escape the conflict situation o Approach-avoidance conflict: a choice must be made about whether to pursue a single goal that has both attractive and unattractive aspects  Approach-avoidance conflicts are common, and they can be highly stressful  Have to take a risk to pursue some desirable outcome  Produces vacillation- people go back and forth, beset by indecision that can create stress  Change o Life changes are any noticeable alterations in one’s living circumstances that require readjustment o Disruptions of daily routines are stressful  Changes in personal relationships, changes at work, changes in finances, and so forth can be stressful even when the changes are welcomed o People with higher scores on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) tend to be more vulnerable to many kinds of physical illness- and many types of psychological problems as well  The list of life changes on the SRRS is dominated by events that are clearly negative or undesirable  These negative events probably generate great frustration o Desirable life changes may be stressful for some people but not for others  Pressure o Pressure involves expectations or demands that one behave in a certain way o You are under pressure to perform when you are expected to execute tasks and responsibilities quickly, efficiently, and successfully o Pressures to conform to others’ expectations are also common o Studies have found a strong relationship between pressure and a variety of psychological symptoms and problems o Pressure has turned out to be more strongly related to measures of mental health than the SRRS and other established measures of stress o Pressure is often self-imposed o Because individuals might create stress by embracing unrealistic expectations for themselves, they might have more control over stress than they realized Responding to Stress Three levels of stress reactions: emotional, physiological, and behavioural responses  Emotions are powerful, largely uncontrollable feelings, accompanied by physiological changes  Stress tends to elicit unpleasant emotions o Annoyance, anger, and rage- frustration o Apprehension, anxiety, and fear- stress probably evokes anxiety and fear more often than any other emotions.  Anxiety can also be elicited by the pressure to perform, the threat of impending frustration, or the uncertainty associated with change o Dejection, sadness, and grief- sometimes stress, especially frustration, simply brings one down (setbacks)  People experience a diverse array of pleasant emotions even while enduring the most dire of circumstances o The frequency of pleasant emotions correlate positively with a measure of a subjects’ resilience, whereas unpleasant emotions correlate negatively with resilience o Positive emotions in the aftermath of crises buffer resilient people against depression and fuel thriving o Positive emotions do not vanish during times of severe stress o Positive emotions can contribute to building social, intellectual, and physical resources that can be helpful in dealing with stress and allow one to experience flourishing mental health  Test anxiety illustrates how emotional arousal can hurt performance  The inverted-U hypothesis predicts that task performance should improve with increased emotional arousal- up to a point, after which further increases in arousal become disruptive and performance deteriorates o The level of arousal at which performance peaks is characterized as the optimal level of arousal for a task o As tasks become more complex, the optimal level of arousal (for peak performance) tends to decrease  The fight-or-flight response is a physiological reaction to threat that mobilizes an organism for attacking (fight) or fleeing (flight) the enemy  The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is made up of the nerves that connect to the heart, blood vessels, smooth muscles, and glands o Parasympathetic division of the ANS generally conserves bodily resources o Sympathetic division of the ANS mobilizes bodily resources for emergencies  Fighting and fleeing may be less adaptive for females, as both responses may endanger offspring and thus reduce the likelihood of an animal passing on its genes o More of a “tend and befriend” response to stress in females o When frightened, female infants showed more approach behaviours toward their mothers than male infants did o Oxytocin signals the need for affiliation in females in times of social distress  Basic neuroendocrine core of stress responses is largely the same for males and females  The fight-or-flight response may be less adaptive for human functioning than it was thousands of generations ago  Chronic stressors often continue for lengthy periods of time, so that the flight-or-fight response leaves one in a state of enduring physiological arousal  Stress reactions are non-specific o They do not vary according to the specific type of circumstances encountered  The general adaptation syndrome is a model of the body’s stress response, consisting of three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion  An alarm reaction (first stage) occurs when an organism recognizes the existence of a threat o Physiological arousal increases as the body musters its resources to combat the challenge  If stress continues, the organism may progress to the second phase of the general adaptation syndrome, called the stage of resistance o Physiological arousal continues to be higher than normal, although it may level off somewhat as the organism becomes accustomed to the threat  If the stress continues over a substantial period of time, the organism may enter the third stage, called the stage of exhaustion o If the stress cannot be overcome, the body`s resources may be depleted, and
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