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Chapter 15

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Psychology 1000

Stress, Coping, and Health 1 Psychology Chapter 15: Stress, Coping, and Health THE NATURE OF STRESS Psychologists have view stress in three different ways: 1. Stimulus: Stressors—eliciting stimuli or events that place strong demands on us 2. A response—that has cognitive, physiological, and behavioural components 3. An organism-environment reaction—stress is viewed as a person-situation interaction, or, more formally, as a transaction between the organism and the environment Transactional conception of stress is a pattern of cognitive appraisals, physiological responses, and behavioural tendencies that occurs in response to a perceived imbalance between situational demands and the resources needed to cope with them Stressors  Microstressors—the daily hassles and everyday annoyances we encounter at school, on the job, and in our family relations  Catastrophic events  Major negative events—victim of a crime, death in family, illness  Events which occur suddenly and unpredictably, and which affect a person over a long period of time seem to take the greatest toll on people  Life event scales—to study linkages between life events and wellbeing and to quantify the amount of life stress that a person has experience over a given period of time The stress response Aspects of the appraisal process: Lazarus 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, that is, what the outcome might imply about us Autonomic and somatic feedback can affect our reappraisals of how stressful a situation is and whether our resources are sufficient to cope with it Chronic stress and the GAS GAS, General Adaptation Syndrome—Selye, described a physiological response pattern to strong and prolonged stressors. Consists of 3 phases: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion GAS Phase 1: Alarm  Occurs because of the sudden activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the release of stress hormones by the endocrine system Stress, Coping, and Health 2  Helps the body deal with the source of stress  Perception of a threat leads a cascade of messages from hypothalamus within brain to pituitary gland to adrenal glands producing hormones such as cortisol o Cortisol triggers an increase in blood sugars by acting on the liver o Blood arriving at skeletal muscles contains additional sugar and oxygen o Suppresses the immune system and inflammation o Persistent secretion of cortisol is associated with a number of serious clinical conditions, such as depression and anxiety disorders  Sympathetic nervous system activation and the hormonal response help you deal with the stressor  Fight or flight Phase 2: Resistance  Body’s resources continue to mobilize so that the person can function despite the presence of the stressor  Can last a long time but resources are being depleted  Elevation of heart rate and respiration, suppression of digestion, suppression of the immune system, and changes in blood sugar levels cannot continue indefinitely without exhausting the body Phase 3: Exhaustion  If stressor is intense and persists too long  Body’s resources are dangerously depleted  Increased vulnerability to disease, in extreme cases, collapse and death  More severe the stress, sooner body will enter  Whichever area of your body is weakest will be affected first STRESS AND HEALTH Rape trauma syndrome—for months or years after the incident, victims may feel nervous and fear another attack by the rapist. Many victims change their place of residence but continue to have nightmares and be frightened when they are alone, outdoors, or in crowds. Victims frequently report decreased enjoyment of sexual activity long after the rape, even when their ability to have orgasms is not affected Statistical relations between stressful life events and psychological distress may reflect a number of different causal relations: 1. Stressful life events may cause distress 2. Distress may cause higher stressful life event scores 3. A third factor, such as neuroticism Stressful life events can serve as both cause and effect Neuroticism—heightened tendency to experience negative emotions and get themselves into stressful situations through their maladaptive behaviours Stress, Coping, and Health 3 Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)  Romeo Dallaire was involved in peacekeeping in Rwanda, was awarded many things and is Canada’s most famous cause of PTSD—was found drunk and almost comatose under a park bench  PTSD—represents what can happen to victims of extreme stress and trauma—is a severe anxiety disorder that is caused by exposure to traumatic life events  Four major groups of symptoms occur with PTSD: 1. Severe anxiety, physiological arousal (the stress response), and distress 2. Painful, uncontrollable reliving of the event in flashbacks, dreams, and fantasies 3. Emotional numbing and avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma 4. Intense “survivor guilt” in instances where others were killed but the individual survived  Civilians are more likely to suffer from PTSD than solders  More likely in traumas caused by human perps. Than by natural disasters  Does not always emerge instantly, can take months or even years to develop Stress and illness  A number of illnesses are caused by/worsened by stress..  Hippocampus is sensitive to cortisol—can lead to deterioration and memory impairment  Michael Meaney did experiment with rat pups showing affection early in life helps with stress recovery later in life VULNERABILITY AND PROTECTIVE FACTORS Vulnerability factors—increase people’s susceptibility to stressful events. They include lack of a support network, poor coping skills, tendencies to become anxious or pessimistic, and other factors that reduce stress resistance Protective factors—environmental or personal resources that help people cope more effectively with stressful events. They include social support, coping skills, and personality factors such as optimism Social support  One of the most important environmental resources  Helps blunt the impact stress has  A study showed that people with lack of social support were 2x as likely to die during the study than people with strong support network  Relation between social isolation and poor health was stronger for men than for women  Social support protects against stress by enhancing immune system functioning  Did experiment with spouses with cancer—those who said they had a higher support network produced more antibodies to fight an antigen they were injected with than spouses who reported having little support  People who have high levels of social support are more disease-resilient Stress, Coping, and Health 4  This may be because people with high support feel a greater sense of identify, reduce other risk factors such as loneliness, increasing the feeling of control over stressors, applying social pressure against maladaptive methods of coping  Pennebaker did experiment on university students having them talk about traumatic events (and a control talk about everyday events). Results showed that the students who were able to purge their negative emotions and talk about the traumatic events had better immunity. Did another experiment with holocaust victims and had them talk about their experiences—those who were most disclosing had the most improved health 14 months later  Social support is especially helpful in children who have experienced traumatic events Cognitive protective factors: the importance of beliefs Hardiness—(Suzanne Kobasa) the 3 c’s of hardiness are commitment (they are committed to work, families, involvements), control (view themselves as having control over outcomes), and challenge (appraise things as challenges or opportunities, not threats) Coping self-efficacy—the conviction that we can perform the behaviours necessary to cope successfully. Study shows that when people experience an increase in self- efficacy while confronting a stressful situation, their immune system actually begins to function more effectively Optimism—people who are more optimistic get sick less often, women with breast cancer died sooner when pessimistic than optimistic, pessimists may suffer more illness over their lifetimes and may die at younger ages from both natural and accidental causes Personality factors—  Type A personality—people tend to live under great pressure and are demanding of themselves and others. Their behaviours include rapid talking, moving, walking, and eating. Have an exaggerated sense of time urgency, become very irritated at delays or failures to meet deadlines, high levels of competitiveness and ambition, aggressiveness and hostility  Type B personality—more relaxed, more agreeable, and have far less sense of time urgency.  Type A men and women have increase risk for coronary heart disease—this is not because of a fast paced lifestyle but because of negative emotions, hostile and aggressive feelin
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