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Health Psychology

Concerned with how psychosocial factors relate to the promotion and maintenance of health and with the causation, prevention, and treatment of illness.


Any circumstances that threaten or are perceived to threaten one's well-being and that thereby tax one's coping abilities.

Minor Stress

Small, everyday stressful events such as waiting in line and traffic. Often times, the accumulation of these stresses has harmful effects.

Acute Stressors

Threatening events that have a relatively short duration and a clear endpoint (i.e. final exams).

Chronic Stressors

Threatening events that have a relatively long duration and no readily apparent time limit (i.e. credit card debt).

Four Types of Stress

Frustration, conflict, change, and pressure.


Occurs in any situation in which the pursuit of some goal is thwarted. You want something that you cant have. [HC]

Life Changes

Any significant alterations in one's living circumstances that require readjustment.

Social Readjustment Rating Scale

Measures life changes as a form of stress. People with high scores on the scale tend to be more vulnerable to many kinds of physical illness and to many types of psychological problems.


Expectations or demands that one behave in a certain way.


When two or more incompatible motivations or behavioral impulses compete for expression.


A choice must be made between two attractive goals.


A choice must be made between two unattractive goals.


A choice must be made about whether to pursue a single goal that has both attractive and unattractive aspects.

Stress Responses

Emotional Responses, Physiological Responses, Behavioral Responses

Emotional Responses

Typical responses include (a) annoyance, anger, and rage, (b) apprehension, anxiety, and fear, and (c) dejection, sadness, and grief. There are also some positive responses. There is also the inverted-U hypothesis, which predicts that task performance will improve to a certain point as arousal level increases.

Physiological Responses

Fight-Or-Flight, ANS, General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)


A physiological reaction to threat in which the autonomic nervous system mobilizes the organism for attacking (fight) or fleeing (flight) an enemy.


Controls blood vessels, smooth muscles, and glands. The sympathetic division of the ANS mediates the fight-or-flight response.

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)

A model of the body's stress response, consisting of three stages: alarm (organism first recognizes existence of threat), resistance (physiological changes stabilize and coping begins), and exhaustion (body's resources are depleted and arousal will decrease).

Hans Selye

Formulated the GAS theory.

Behavioral Responses

Coping, Learned Helplessness, Behavioral Disengagement, Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis, Catharsis, Displacement, Defense Mechanisms, Self-Indulgence.


Active efforts to master, reduce, or tolerate demands created by stress.

Learned Helplessness

Passive behavior produced by exposure to unavoidable aversive events. Give up b/c they believe events are beyond their control.

Behavioral Disengagement

Giving up. Associated with increased stress.

Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis

Holds that aggression (any behavior intended to hurt someone, either physically or verbally) is always caused by frustration.


The release of pent-up emotional tension as described by Freud, who believes that it is adaptive. Studies show that it actually fuels more anger, however.


Diversion of anger to a substitute target.

Defense Mechanisms

Largely unconscious reactions that protect a person from unpleasant emotions such as anxiety and guilt.


Reduced impulse control caused by stress. Often involves excessive consumption.

Roy Baumeister

Came up with a theory that assumes that pressure to perform often makes people self-conscious and that this elevated self-consciousness disrupts their attention.


Physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism (negative attitudes towards oneself), and a lowered sense of self-efficacy that can be brought on gradually by chronic work-related stress.

Psychosomatic Disease

Genuine physical ailments that were thought to be caused in part by stress and other psychological factors.

Heart Disease

Accounts for 30% of all deaths in the US, 90% of which are coronary heart diseases (a reduction in blood flow in the coronary arteries).

Anger and Coronary Risk

Increased threat of heart attacks for those who exhibit and angry/hostile temperament. The angrier one is, the higher coronary risk.

Type A Personality

Includes three elements: (1) a strong competitive orientation, (2) impatience and time urgency, and (3) anger and hostility. People characterized with this personality have increased coronary risk.

Type B Personality

Marked by relatively relaxed, patient, easygoing, amicable behavior.

Immune Response

The body's defensive reaction to invasion by bacteria, viral agents, or other foreign substances. Protects the body from disease.

Social Support

Various types of aid and succor provided by members of one's social networks. Often times, people with more social support are healthier because they are less stressed and they have better immune functioning.


A general tendency to expect good outcomes. Blame setbacks on temporary personal factors. Correlated with good health, probably because they are likely to engage in problem-focused coping. Blame setbacks on temporary personal factors.


A general tendency to expect bad outcomes. Blame setbacks n personal shortcomings. Correlated with poorer health.

Health-Impairing Behaviors

Exercise, Nutrition, Smoking, Drugs, Alcohol, HIV/ADIS


Lack of exercise can be detrimental to longevity because of a poor cardiovascular fitness, increased susceptibility to obesity-related problems, and lack of exercise to serve as a buffer that reduces potentially damaging physical effects of stress.


(1) High cholesterol = increased risk of cardiovascular disease, (2) Low-fiber diets increase likelihood of coronary disease, (3) High salt intake contributes to hypertension, (4) High caffeine contributes to hypertension, (5) High-fat diets contribute to some forms of cancer, and (6) Inadequate calcium intake associated with osteoporosis.


Smokers face a much greater risk of premature death, as they often live 13-14 years shorter than a nonsmoker. Happens because of diseases caused by smoking such as cancer and heart disease. It is possible to quit, but it is not easy.


Can kill directly and immediately when they are taken in overdoes or when they impair the user enough to cause an accident. Increases risk for infectious diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and more.


See drugs above. Alcohol causes the greatest physical damage in the population as a whole.


AIDS is a disorder in which the immune system is gradually weakened and eventually disables by the HIV. Deadly because they weaken the immune system and thus allow other life-threatening diseases to enter the body. There is some drug treatment available, but there is no cure.

Reactions to Illness

The reaction to one's illness often determines whether or not they decide to seek medical treatment. People often misinterpret or downplay their symptoms and thus hold out on seeking medial advice.


Stress plays a central role in the development of PTSD.

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