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Chapter 15

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Psychology 1000

Chapter 15 Stress Coping and HealthPsychologists have viewed stress in three different ways as a stimulus as a response and as an organismenvironment interaction o Stressors eliciting stimuli or events that place strong demands on us o Stress has also been viewed as a response having cognitive physiological and behavioral components o Stress is viewed as a personsituation interaction or as a transaction between the organism and the environmentStress is a pattern of cognitive appraisals physiological responses and behavioral tendencies that occurs in response to a perceived imbalance between situational demands and the resources needed to cope with themStressors are specific kinds of eliciting stimuli the greater the imbalance between demands and resources the more stressful a situation is likely to be o Microstressors daily hassles and everyday annoyances o Catastrophic events occur unexpectedly and typically affect large numbers of people o Major negative events victim of major crime death of loved ones etcAll these stressors can have a significant negative impact on psychological and physical wellbeingIn general events over which the person has little or no control which occur suddenly and unpredictably and which impact a person over a long period of time seem to take the greatest toll on physical and psychological wellbeingTo study linkages between life events and wellbeing researchers have devised life event scales to quantify the amount of life stress that a person has experienced over a given period of time o The scale takes into account their appraisal and whether it was a major event or not o Life event scales have been widely used in life stress researchBut it is subject to bias because it is a form of selfreport o Most modern researchers now define stress in terms of negative life changes onlyWe respond to situations as we perceive them the starting point for the stress response is therefore our appraisal of the situation and of its implications for us o Primary appraisal appraisal of the demands of the situation o Secondary appraisal appraisal of the resources available to cope with it o Consequences judgments of what the consequences of the situation could be o Personal meaning what the outcome might imply about usAccording to Richard Lazarus if you believe that the demands of some task greatly exceed your resources you will likely experience stressYou will also take into account the potential consequences of failing to cope successfully with the situation including both the seriousness of the consequences and the likelihood that they will occurDistortions and mistaken appraisals can occur at any of the four points in the appraisal process causing inappropriate stress responsesThe fact that appraisal patterns can differ from person to person in so many ways helps us understand why there can be so much individual variation in the way people respond to the same event or situation and it also helps us understand why some people are particularly vulnerable to certain types of demandsHans Selye termed physiological response pattern to strong stressors general adaptation syndrome GAS o Alarm reactionanimals exhibit a rapid increase in physiological arousalOccurs because of activation of the sympathetic nervous system leads to an increase in heart rate and respiration dilates the pupils and slows digestionThere is also an endocrine or hormonal stress responseCortisol triggers an increase in blood sugars and suppresses the immune systemSympathetic nervous system activation and hormonal response help you deal with the stressor in what is known as fight or flight response o Your ability to confront or retreat from the source of stress is associated with visual sensitivity movement and immune systemEventually the parasympathetic nervous system functions to reduce arousal and with continued exposure to stress the body remains on red alert and enters the second stage resistance o Resistancethe bodys resources continue to be mobilized so that the person can function despite the presence of the stressor the longevity of this stage depends on the persons general health level of stress and available support o Exhaustionbodys resources are dangerously depleted it is during this stage that there is increased vulnerability to disease and in extreme cases collapse and even death Stress and HealthEffects of stress on psychological wellbeing are clearest and most dramatic among people who have experienced catastrophic life events o Some stressors are so traumatic that they can have a strong and longlasting psychological impact ie holocaust Vietnam war etc o Rape trauma syndrome many female victims experience a reaction after rapeHow do more typical but less serious stressors affect psychological wellbeing o More negative life events people report on measures more likely they are also to report symptoms of psychological distressDistressed people may be more likely to remember negative things that have happened to themPsychological distress also might cause more negative events to occur in peoples lives because of their own behavior
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