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Psychology
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Psychology 1000
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Dr.Mike

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The Nature of Stress • Psychologists have viewed stress in three different ways: as a stimulus, a response and an organism-environment interaction • Some define stress in terms of eliciting stimuli, or events that place strong demands on us • These situations are termed stressors • Stress has also been viewed as a response that has cognitive, physiological and behavioral components • The presence of negative emotions is an important feature of the stress with the field of emotion • Athird way of thinking about stress combines the stimulus and response definitions into a more inclusive model • Here stress is viewed as a personal-situation interaction, or, more formally, as a transaction between the organism and the environment • From this perspective, stress is a pattern of cognitive appraisals, physiological responses and behavioral tendencies that occur in response to a perceived imbalance between situational demands and the resources needed to cope with them Stressors • Stressors are specific kinds of eliciting stimuli • Whether physical or psychological, they place demands on us that endanger well-being, requiring us to adapt in some manner • The greater the imbalance between demands and resource, the more stressful a situation is likely to be • Stressors can range in severity from microstressors- the daily hassles and everyday annoyances we encounter at school, on the job and in our family relations- to very severe stressors • Catastrophic events often occur unexpectedly and typically affect large numbers of people (natural disasters, war) • Major negative events such as being the victim of a major crime or sexual abuse, the death or loss of a loved one, an academic or career failure, or a major illness, also require major adaption • In general, events which occur suddenly and unpredictably, seem to take the greatest toll on physical and psychological well-being Measuring Stressful Life Events • To study linkages between life events and well-being, researchers have devised life event scales to quantify the amount of life stress that a person has experienced over a given period of time • Life event scales have been widely used in life stress research • Like other self-report measures, they are subject to possible distortion and failures of recall • Some early theorists believed that any life event that requires adaption, whether negative or positive in nature, is a stressor • Later research showed that only negative life changes consistently predicted adverse health and behavioral outcomes The Stress Response • We respond to situations as we perceive them • Therefore, the starting point for the stress response is our appraisal of the situation and its implications for us (4 aspects) • 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 • Distortions and mistaken appraisals can occur at any of the four points in the appraisal process, causing inappropriate stress response • People may overestimate the seriousness of the situation or they may underestimate their own resources • As soon as we make appraisals, the body responds to them • Although appraisals begin the process, appraisals and physiological responses mutually affect one another • 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 • Hans Selye studied the body’s response to stress • He described a physiological response pattern to strong and prolonged stress that he called general adaption syndrome (GAS) • The GAS consists of three phases: alarm reaction, resistance and exhaustion • An alarm reaction occurs because of the sudden activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the release of stress hormones by the endocrine system • The SNS has an activating affect on the smooth muscles, organs and glands of the body (increased heart rate and respiration, dilates pupils and slows digestion) • This alarm reaction helps the body deal with the source of stress • There is also an endocrine, or hormonal, stress response • The adrenal glands produce a number of different hormones, but during a period of stress the most important is cortisol • Cortisol triggers an increase in blood sugars, in part by acting on the liver • Thus, the extra blood arriving at your skeletal muscles contains additional sugar, along with the additional oxygen • Cortisol also suppresses the immune system • If you are injured, this action of cortisol suppresses inflammation so that injured tissues do not swell • The stress hormones are especially important for your ability to function despite the presence of a stressor, but, persistent secretion of cortisol is associated with a number of serious clinical conditions, such as depression and anxiety disorders • The stress response has been characterized as the “fight-or-flight” response- your ability to confront the source of stress “fight” or retreat from it “flight” is enhanced by the stress response • The alarm reaction stage cannot last indefinitely, the body’s natural tendency to maintain the stable internal state of homeostasis results in parasympathetic nervous system activity • With continued exposure to stress, the body remains on red alert and enters the second stage, resistance • During resistance, the body’s resources continue to be mobilized so that the person can function despite the presence of the stressor • If the stressor is intense and persists for too long, the body may reach the stage of exhaustion, in which the body’s resources are dangerously depleted • Reaching the stage of exhaustion depends on how sever the stress is, the persons ability o cope with the stress and their general health Stress and Health Stress and Psychological Well-Being • Some stressors are so traumatic that they can have a strong and long-lasting psychological impact • More than 50 years after the horror of the Holocaust, psychological scars remain for Jewish survivors of the Nazi concentration camps • Many survivors are still troubled by high levels of anxiety and recurrent nightmares about their traumatic experiences • Children who lost their parents or siblings continue to experience sudden fears that something terrible will happen to their spouses or children whenever they are out of sight • Women who experience rape sometimes find that its aftermath can be nearly as stressful as the incident itself • Many victims experience a reaction known as the rape trauma syndrome • For months or even years after the rape, victim may feel nervous and fear another attack by the rapist • In one long-term study of rape victims, a quarter of the women felt that they had not recovered psychologically six years after the rape • Statistical relations between stressful life events and psychological distress may reflect a number of different causal reactions: • 1: stress life events may cause distress • 2: distress may cause higher stressful life event scores • 3: neuroticism cause both stress and high negative life change scores (neuroticism: heightened tendency to experience negative emotions and get themselves into stressful situations through their maladaptive behaviors) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) represents what can happen to victims of extreme stress and trauma • PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that is caused by exposure to traumatic life events • Four major groups of symptoms occur with PTSD • Severe anxiety, psychological arousal (the stress response), and distress • Painful, uncontrollable reliving of the events in flashbacks, dreams and fantasies • Emotional numbing and avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma • Intense “survivor guilt” in instances where others were killed but the individual survived • Some individuals with PTSD also show self- destructive and impulsive behavior • Traumas caused by human perpetrators, such as war, rape, assault and torture, tend to cause more severe PTSD than do natural disasters • Women are more likely to develop PTSD than are men • The likelihood of developing PTSD is influenced by the victims social support, the presence of significant childhood stresses, personality factors, coping strategies, and pre-existing psychological conditions • PTSD usually develops within 3 months, in some cases longer Stress and Illness • Psychological factors can influence stress from anywhere between a cold to cancer, heart disease, diabetes or death • Within a month following the death of a spouse, bereaved widowers and widows begin to show a higher morality rate than married people of the same age who are both still alive • Adults who experience high stress during 1994-1995 were increase risk of developing chronic health conditions by 2000- 2001 • The chronic health conditions included arthritis, rheumatism, bronchitis, emphysema, and stomach or intestinal ulcers • Just experiencing three lasting stressors - such as financial worries, difficulties in a relationship, or problems at work or school - increase the risk of developing a chronic health condition by 18% among males and 24% among females • The secretion of stress hormones by the adrenal gland is an important part of the stress response • These hormones effect the activity of the heart, and excessive secretions can damage the lining of the arteries • By reducing fat metabolism, the stress hormones also can contribute to the fatty blockages in arteries that cause heart attacks and strokes • Stress-induced weakening of the immune system is one of the possible reason for increased risk of illness • People with onset diabetes when under stress are less likely to regulate their diets and take their medication , resulting in an increased risk of serious medical consequences • Stress may also lead to smoking, alcohol, drug use, sleep loss, under-eating or overeating • The stress hormones, such as cortisol, have an important effect on the brain and cognitive function • The hippocampus, important for learning and memory, is especially sensitive to cortisol • Prolonged elevation of stress hormone levels is associated with a number of clinical conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders Vulnerability and Protective Factors • Vulnerability Factors: increase people’s susceptibility to stressful events • Include lack of support network, poor coping skills, tendencies to become anxious or pessimistic • Protective Factors: environmental or personal resources that help people fare better in the face of stress Social Support • The knowledge that we can rely on others for help and support in a time of crisis helps to blunt the impact that stress has • Studies carried out in the US, Sweden, and Finland found that people with weak social ties were twice as likely to die during the period of the study compared those with strong ties • One way social support protects against stress is by enhancing immune system functioning • Social support is such a strong protective factor because people who feel that they are part of a social system experience a greater sense of identity and meaning in their lives • Social networks also reduce exposure to other risk factors such as loneliness • Lack of support can lead to smoking, obesity, or high blood pressure • Social support may limit the impact of a potential threat even before we generate a stress response • Those with social support may feel less threatened so they are less likely to interpret a situation as threatening and stressful • However, individuals may respond normally to stress but be better able to cope with and recover from stress • The amygdala is well known as a structure that is involved in appraising and mediating the response to threats Personal and Environmental Factors That Contribute to Stress-Resilience in Children Source Characteristic Individual • Good intellectual functioning • Appealing, sociable, easygoing • Self-efficacy, self-confidence, high self- esteem • Talents • Faith Family • Close relationship to caring parent figure • Authoritative parenting: warmth, structure, high expectations • Socioeconomic advantages • Connections to extended supportive family networks Extra-familial Context • Bonds to pro-social organizations • Attending effective schools Cognitive Protective Factors: The Importance of Beliefs Hardiness • Hardiness: a stress-resistant personality pattern that involves the factors of commitment, control and challenge • Protective factor against stress • Hardy people are committed to their work, families and other involvements • They view themselves as having control over outcomes, as opposed to feeling powerless to influence events Coping Self-efficacy • Coping Self-efficacy: beliefs relating to our ability to deal effectively with a stressful stimulus or situation, including pain • “Can I handle these demands?” • People can increase efficacy expectancies by observing others cope successfully and through social persuasion and encouragement from others Optimism • Positive affect is linked to better health and longer life, and a critical aspect of positive effect is our view of the future • Our beliefs about how things are likely to turn out also play an important role in stress • Pessimists tend to focus on the black cloud surrounding any silver lining and have a greater risk for helplessness and depression when they confront stressful events Personality Factors • Type A Personality: a behavioural pattern involving a sense of time urgency, pressured behaviour, and hostility that appears to be a risk factor in coronary heart disease • Behaviour includes rapid talking, moving, walking, eating • Become very irritated at delays or failures to meet their deadlines • High levels of competitiveness, ambition • Show aggressiveness and hostility when things get in their way • Type B Personality: a relaxed and agreeable personality type, with a little sense of time urgency Finding Meaning in Stressful Life Events • Finding a sense of meaning from one’s own process of coping with a loss (i.e. parents who lost their babies, lost a family member) had a long-term positive effects • Relying on religious beliefs can either decrease or increase stress, depending their nature and the type of stressor to which they are applied • Such beliefs seem to help people cope effectively with losses, illnesses, and personal setbacks • In contrast, they can increase the negative impact of other stressors such as marital problems and abuse, perhaps by inducing guilt or placing internal pressures on individuals to remain in the stressful relationship Physiological Reactivity • Physiological Toughness: relations between two classes of hormones secreted by the adrenal glands in the face of stress • Both catecholamines and corticosteroids mobilize the body’s fight-or- flight response in the face of stressors, but they have somewhat different effects on the body • Cortisol’s arousal effects last much longer and seem to be more damaging than those produced by the catecholamines • Physiological toughness refers to a stress hormone pattern that involves (1) a low resting level of cortisol and low levels of cortisol secretion in response to stressors and (2) a quick, strong catecholamine response when the stressor occurs, followed by a quick decline in arousal when the stressor is over Coping With Stress • Although there are countless ways people might respond to a stressor, coping strategies can be divided into three broad classes • 1. Problem Focused Coping • Planning • Active coping and problem- solving • Suppressing competing activities • Exercising activities • Assertive confrontation • 2. Emotion Focused Coping • Positive reinterpretation • Acceptance • Denial • Repression • Escape-avoidance • Wishful thinking • Controlling feelings • 3. Seeking Social Support • Help and guidance • Emotional support • Affirmation of worth • Tangible aid (e.g., money) • 1. Problem Focused Coping strategies attempt to confront and deal directly with demands of the situation, or to change the situation so that it is no longer stressful • Examples include studying for a test, going directly to another person to work out a misunderstanding, and signing up for a course in time management to deal with time presser • 2. Emotion Focused Coping strategies rather than dealing directly with the stressful situation, attempt to manage the emotional responses that result from it • Examples include appraising the situation in a manner that minimizes its emotional impact • Aperson may deal with stress from an interpersonal conflict by denying that any problem exists • Other forms involve avoidance or acceptance of the stressful situation • 3. Seeking Social Support strategies involve turning to other for assistance and emotional support in times of stress • Thus, a man with a terminal illness might choose to join a support group for the terminally ill, and a student might seek help in preparing for a future test Effectiveness of Coping Strategies • It was found that problem-focused coping methods and seeking-social support were associated with favorable adjustment to stressors • In contrast, emotion-focused strategies that involved avoiding feelings or taking things out on other people predicted depression and poorer adjustment Controllability and Coping Efficiency • Despite the evidence generally favoring problem-solving coping, attempts to change the situations are not always the most adaptive way to cope with a stressor • When we cannot influence or modify a situation, problem-focused coping may do us little good and could even make things worse • In such cases, emotion-focused coping may be the most adaptive approach we can take, since, even if we cannot master the situation, we may be able to prevent or control maladaptive emotional responses it • The important principle is that no coping strategy or technique is equally effective in all situations • Instead, effectiveness depends on the characteristics of the situation, the appropriateness of the technique, and the skill with which it is carried out • People are likely to adapt most effectively to these stresses of life if they have mastered a variety of coping techniques and know how and when to apply them most effectively Gender, Culture, and Coping • Many factors including gender roles and culture influence our tendency to favour one coping strategy over another • Although men and women both use problem-focused coping, men are more likely to favour it as the first strategy they use when they confront a stressor • Women, who tend to have larger support networks and higher needs for affilia
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