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Chapter 12: Stress, coping, and health
Terms in this set (44)
What is stress?
Tension, discomfort, or physical symptoms that arise when a stressor - a stimulus in the environment - strains our ability to cope effectively
What is a traumatic event?
A stressor (stimulus in the environment) that is so severe that it can produce lasting long-term psychological or health consequences
- most people experience at least one potentially traumatic event
How is stress like a transaction?
We experience stress when we believe we lack the necessary resources to cope with a stressful situation (we don't have enough to pay for the bill of stress)
What are the three ways that researchers approach the study of stress?
1. Stressors as stimuli
2. Stress as a transaction.
3. Stress as a response
Stressors as a stimuli
- focus on IDENTIFYING events that most people find stressful (eg. Divorce) and ordering them into a hierarchy of stresses - OBJECTIVE measures of stress
- focuses on people who are most susceptible to stress following these different events
Stress as a transaction
- stress is a subjective experience (each person is impacted by the same stressor differently)
- this observation suggests that we can view stress as a TRANSACTION BETWEEN PEOPLE AND THEIR ENVIRONMENTS
- researchers in this area examine how people cope with and interpret stressful events differently
- suggests that how we experience stress is dependent on how we evaluate the stressful event (these evaluations are called APPRAISALS)
PRIMARY APPRAISAL - initial decision regarding whether an event is harmful (challenge vs threat)
SECONDARY APPRAISAL - perceptions regarding how well we can cope with the event that follow the primary appraisal if we decide that the event is a threat
If we, after making appraisals on a stressful event, decide that we can cope, what do we do after?
We engage in problem focused coping - coping strategy where we problem solve and tackle the challenge head on because we are optimistic about being able to achieve the goal
- eg of problem focused coping - when we receive a bad grade, we can analyze why and develop a strategy to do better next time
If we, after making appraisals on a stressful event, decide that we cannot control or cope with the stressful event, what do we do after?
- we are more likely to experience a full blown stress reaction and adopt EMOTION FOCUSED COPING
- coping strategy where we try to put a positive spin on our feelings or situation and engage in behaviours to reduce painful emotions
- eg. After a breakup, we convince ourselves we were unhappy months before it occurred
Natural disasters can both....
Damage community bonds and solidly them by increasing social awareness and cement interpersonal bonds
Stress as a response
- involves assessing psychological and physiological responses to stressful situations by introducing stressors induced in a lab or analyzing people who have encountered real-life stressors
- psychological well-being - depression, anxiety, hope
-physiological well-being - heart rate, release of stress hormones called CORTICOSTEROIDS (spit samples)
What two scales are used to gauge the nature and impact of stressful events?
1. Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) - ranks 43 life events in terms of stressfulness by number and adds up all that you have experienced in the past year
- number correlates with risk of illness
- doesn't consider other crucial factors like people's subjective interpretations of the stressful event and their ability to remember the event clearly
- also doesn't consider chronic ongoing stressors like discrimination based on gender, sex, religion etc
2. Hassles Scale - measures stress caused by hassles - MINOR daily annoyances - that can accumulate
- although major life events can cause us to experience more hassles, even when the influence of major life events are taken away, hassles still predict health outcomes
- BOTH major life events and daily hassles are positively correlated with poor health, but the frequency and severity of perceived hassles is actually a BETTER predictor of psychical and psychological health than life events
How do we have we adopted to cope with stress according to Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)? What is the genius of GAS?
- according to GAS, we respond to stress in three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion
- Selye's theory is smart because he correlates the stress response of animals to humans
What happens during the alarm reaction according to General Adaptation Syndrome?
- autonomic nervous system is excited and releases stress hormones
- symptoms of anxiety (associated with EMOTION BASED limbic system - amygdala, hypothalamus, and hippocampus)
- fight or flight response (mobilizes people and animals to either defend or escape a threatening situation) is triggered
- level of resistance to stress (y axis on the graph) drops during this stage
What happens during the resistance stage according to General Adaptation Syndrome?
- rise in level of resistance to stress (elevated bump in graph)
- you adapt to the stressor and finds ways to cope with it
- cerebral cortex (thinking brain) balances out the emotion of the limbic system to react to the stressor appropriately
- try to think about the situation realistically (eg. Person who's afraid of flying thinks of flight crash statistics to reassure themselves)
What happens during the exhaustion stage according to General Adaptation Syndrome?
- occurs when the stressor is long lasting and the person can't keep up the resistance stage anymore; it starts to break down
- on graph, level of resistance to stress decreases again
- damage to an organ system, depression, anxiety, to a lower immune system can occur
What is the tend and befriend reaction to stress?
Reaction that mobilizes people to nurture of seek social support when under stress
- more common among women, although men display it too
- occurs more in women because they have more to lose (they bear and care for children) which is why they have developed this extra response in addition to the fight or flight response
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Condition that follows extremely stressful life events
- symptoms include insomnia, flashbacks, feeling detached, increased arousal, headaches, chest pain, dizziness etc
- although the majority experience a trauma, only about 7% develop PTSD
- support from a spouse has been shown to help victims of PTSD relieve their suffering
- likelihood of developing PTSD is related to the severity or duration of the stressor
- witnessing trauma vicariously (it doesn't happen to them personally) can also cause PTSD
First shield of invaders that the immune system send out as a first line of defense by blocking entry of disease- producing organisms called pathogens and other foreign invaders called antigens
What types of defences does the immune system use to defend against pathogens?
- Special white blood cells called phagocytes and lymphocytes which engulf the invader (T and B cells)
- macrophages - scavengers that wander in the body, destroying remaining antigens and dead tissue
What can suppress immune system response
- some types of cancer cells
What are autoimmune diseases?
Diseases caused by the OVERACTIVITY of the immune system (body attacks itself)like arthritis and MS
Study of the relationship between the immune system and the central nervous system (how we think - i.e. stress - can impact how our immune system functions)
- note this doesn't mean that positive or negative thinking can cause or suppress disease
T or F: you are more likely to get a cold when you're really stressed out
T; # of stressful events is correlated to susceptibility of catching a cold
- significant stressors like unemployment and interpersonal difficulties lasting at least a month were the best predictors of who developed a cold
- network of friends and attachment to a community afforded protection against colds
- stress may not directly affect the immune system, but it may cause bad habits (eg. Sleeping less, eating unhealthily) which depress the immune system
Caring for someone with Alzheimer's is associated with a _________ ability to heal from injury
Lower (it can be extremely stressful and can therefore, long term disruptions of the immune system)
What are examples of stressors that can disrupt the immune system?
- taking an important test
- death of a spouse
- marital conflict
- living near a damaged nuclear reactor
- natural disasters
Authentic illnesses such as asthma and ulcers that emotions and stress can contribute to, maintain or aggravate
- reflects biopsychosocial perspective - the view that an illness or medical condition is the product of the interplay between biological, psychological and social factors
How are psychological factors related to Coronary Heart Disease? What is CHD?
CHD is the damage to the heart from the complete or partial blockage (by cholesterol) of the arteries - called atherosclerosis that provide O2 to the heart
- LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH AND DISABILITY IN CANADA AND US
- stressful life events predict recurrences of heart attacks, high blood pressure and enlargement of the heart as well as release of stress hormones and disruptions in normal heart rhythm
- ppl with CHD have hyped up autonomic nervous systems and exaggerated responses to stressors
- could be because stress causes bad habits that contribute to heart disease (poor exercise and poor diet)
Who is more susceptible to getting CHD?
Those with type A personality - personality type that describes people who are competitive, driven, hostile, restless, and ambitious (engines are set at full speed)
- contrasts with calmer and mellower type B personality
- specific type A traits have more influence on suce-biliary, specifically anger and HOSTILITY - PRACTICING FORGIVENESS OF THERS HELPS TO REDUCE CHD RISK
Social support and its relationship to stress
4 kinds of social ties: marriage, contact with friends, church membership, and formal or informal group associations
- higher # of social connections is associated with greater health and lower mortality rate (although we are unsure of which causes what)
- there is a strong relationship between the # of social connections and the probability of dying over a nine-year period
- social support can help us cope with short-term crises and life transitions (eg. A happy marriage is protective against depression) but a breakup of close relationships are among the most stressful life events
What are methods of reducing or coping with stress?
- Social support
- gaining control
What are the five types of control we can use (alone of in conjunction) in different stressful situations?
1. Behavioural contort - actively stepping up and doing something to reduce the impact of a stressful situation or prevent its reoccurrence (problem-focused coping)
- RELATED TO CHANGING THE PROBLEM
- better at reducing stress than avoidance-oriented coping - avoiding an action to solve our problems or giving up hope
2. Cognitive control - think differently about negative emotions that arise in response to stressful events (includes emotion-focused coping)
- "what are you feeling and why"
- RELATED TO CHANGING HOW WE THINK ABOUT THE PROBLEM RATHER THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF
- can be more effective in reducing stress than problem-focused coping in certain situations that you can;t change or avoid
3. Decisional control - choose among different/alternative courses of action
- when we have more of an ability to choose and people to help us choose, it reduces the stress surrounding making the decision
4. Informational control - ability to acquire info about a stressful event; the more we know, the less stressed we will be since we feel more prepared
- eg. Knowing test questions
- proactive coping - anticipation of problems and stressful events that promotes effective coping (like preparing and minimizing difficulties before they arise)
5. Emotional control - ability to suppress and express emotions
- journalling (expression of emotions) has been shown in some studies to have modest positive effects in academic, social, cognitive, and physical health domains (Pennebaker)
- more effective if you write about deeper thoughts and traumatic experiences rather than superficial things
- may be times when its best to conceal emotions (nervousness for a speech for example)
What did the results of the Linguistic Inquiry and Word count study conducted by Pennebaker demonstrate?
- people's physical and mental health are correlated with the words they use
- those who benefit most from journalling used high # of positive number words and an increasing # of cognitive words
- they also switched their use of pronouns from 3rd person to 1st person over the course of sessions
T or F: crisis debriefing may actually increase PTSD risk
T; since the debriefing takes place within 1 or 2 days after the trauma and encourages people to talk about their negative emotions, it may interfere with people's normal coping strategies
- Japanese gov't withheld crisis debriefing for a few days after the tsunami, suggesting that it consolidates symptoms rather than relieving them
What is flexible coping?
The ability to adjust coping strategies as the situation demands
- adaptive and beneficial
- involves being able to suppress and express emotions on demand
- can become harmful if too much suppression and avoidance are overrelied upon as they impair problem solving abilities and may cause emotions to return in greater force
- paradoxical effect of suppression - the more you try not to think about something, the more you think about it
What is the name of the set of attitudes that is present in stress-resistant people?
Hardiness - set of attitudes marked by a sense of control over events (self-efficacy), commitment to life and work, and courage and motivation to confront stressful circumstances
- few change as a challenge rather than a threat
- those whose attitudes reflected high levels of control, commitment and challenge remained healthier than those attitudes who didn't
- not entirely clear whether hardiness causes low levels of anxiety or whether it is the other way around ne
What are some advantages to being an optimist?
- optimists tend to be more productive, focused, persistent, and better at handling frustration than pessimists
- associated with...
- low mortality rates
- a vigorous immune response
- lower distress in women trying to have a child
- better surgical outcomes
- fewer physical complaints
- optimism is largely genetic
Why is rumination a maladaptive coping strategy?
Rumination is the recycling and endless analysis of what caused our problems or negative events that occur in our lives
- it can lead us to become more depressed
- correlated with elevated blood pressure and heart rate
- regret, brooding, and relationship preoccupation is related to negative adjustment after breaking up
- higher rates of rumination in women and more frequent bouts of depression
- drives away social support and impairs problem solving
How is happiness associated with health and life in general?
1. chronic happiness activates fight or flight response, which is known to involve harmful long term effects
2. Happy people make better health related choices
3. Frederickson's broaden and build theory posits positivity "broadens" the action repertoire and helps to "build" resources like social connections
4. Happy people make better choices because they are more open to the world and more self-confident
Which type of lifestyles and people appear to be more happy?
- people who EXERCISE
- heavy smokers are less happy than non-smokers (moderate and non smokers appear to have the same happiness)
- moderate DRINKERS appear to be happier than people who don't drink at all - optimum is 1-2 units of alcohol a day
- consumption of meat and dairy-products was slightly positively correlated with happiness
- study in Denmark observed that people who often eat fast food tend to be somewhat less happy
Pessimism and health facts
- higher blood pressure
- high trait anxiety is correlated with greater thickening of carotid arteries
- negative emotions enhance the production of proinflammatory cytokines and can contribute to the delay of wound healing
What is mindfulness?
- The capacity to openly attend, with awareness, to what is happening in one's PRESENT-MOMENT experience and invite in that experience with curiosity, interest, and acceptance
- contrats with our autopilot lives and mind-wandering
How does mindfulness reduce stress?
- it reduces stress appraisals (how we few a stressful situation) and reduces stress-reactivity responses
- it may alter stress processing in the brain by altering peripheral stress-response cascades and subsequent risk for stress-related disease
- increases recruitment of prefrontal regulatory regions that may inhibit activity in stress processing regions and also have direct effects on regulating the reactivity of stress processing regions
How does meditation affect the body?
- More time spent meditating during a study predicted lower levels of a marker of inflammation in the body
- 3 months of MBSR (meditation and mindfulness training) in black teens lead to SIGNIFICANT DECREASES IN BLOOD PRESSURE relative to other controls
- 8 weeks of loving-kindness training led to increases in cardiac vagal tone (measure of efficient parasympathetic - associated with calming down after stress - functioning
How can you prevent stress?
- proactively coping rather than reactive coping (plan BEFORE THE STRESS OCCURS)
- educate young people about the risk and consequences of various health behaviours and to adopt healthy coping strategies
Recommended textbook explanations
Richard A. Kasschau
Katherine Minter, Mary Spilis, William Elmhorst
C. Nathan DeWall, David G Myers
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