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Stress - Psychology AS

Overview of the topic of Stress in AS Psychology. (Information from revision notes and text books)

Sarah Jane

on 16 May 2014

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Transcript of Stress - Psychology AS

Summary of Topic...
Stress Revision...
What is stress?
The definition of stress is - 'A person's interpretation of life situations that exceeds their ability to cope' This basically means that if you are faced with a situation which you cannot cope with, it is physically or mentally demanding. Your brain and body can't cope!
How your body reacts to Stress...
Our bodies have two main pathways which deal with stress, these are the Sympathomedullary Pathway, and the Pituitary - Adrenal System. These focus on the two sides to stress - Acute and Chronic. The sympathomedullary Pathway focuses on Acute Stress/Immediate Stressors and prepares the body for the 'Fight or Flight' response. This prepares the body for vigourous muscular muscular activity such as;
Breathing rate increases
Blood flow to skeletal muscles increases
Heart rate increases
Blood sugar levels increase
Blood pressure in arteries increase
Pupils dilate
Intestinial muscles relaxe
Sympathomedullary Pathway - Acute Stress...
These stress responses relate to the adrenal glands. These are located on the top of the kidneys, as seen below. Inside the adrenal glands there is the Medulla and the Cortex. The adrenal cortex is controlled by the hypothalamus & the pituitary gland which are loctaed in the brain.
Sends messages via the brainstem to the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
Activates the adrenal medulla to release adrenaline + noradrenaline hormone
Vital organs are prepared 'Fight or Flight' response
Parasympathetic System activated
Body returns to a
relaxed state
Pituitary - Adrenal System
Chronic Stress...
Situitation is interpreted as stressful
Hypothalamus is triggered to release Cortigo-Trophin Releasing Factor - or CRF - which travels to the pituitary gland.
CRF causes the pituitary gland to release ACTH into the bloodstream.
ACTH travels to the Adrenal Cortex which stimulates the release of Cortisol.
Cortisol has many effects on the body which can be +ve or -ve including lower sensitivity to pain and lower bone density.
Levels of Cortisol are regulated by the Hypothalamus & the Pituitary Gland.
When levels of Cortisol rise above a certain level, CRF & ACTH levels are reduced.
Body Returns to normal
Stress - Related Illnesses...
There are illnesses which can be caused by stress. These can be Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), Psychiatric Disorders such as Depression, PTSD & PITS.
There has been research which has found a relationship between Stress and the Immune System. For example Marcucha et al. (1998) performed a 'Punch Biopsy' on the mouths of students. He did this before the summer holidays and before the student's exams. He found that the wounds given before the exam took 40% longer to heal than the wounds during the summer holidays.
Stress has also been related to Cardiovascular disorders such as; Hypertension, Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke. However we can't specifically say that Cardiovascular disorders are caused primarily by stress, we have to consider other factors.
These factors are Lifestyle factors. These factors show that it is also the person's lifestyle that can also lead to Cardiovascular disorders, factors such as;
Personality ect.
Mr Owl
Selye (1956)
Selye (1956) identified three stages to the stress response. His model identifies the short-term and long-term effects of exposure to stress.
In Selye's time, psychologists were not aware of the effects of hormones on the body. It has since been discovered that hormones rarely ever run out.
General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)
Phase 1 - Alarm...
System's are activated in response to a stressor...
Phase 2 - Resistance...
The body copes with the stress/stressor...
Phase 3 - Exhaustion
Stress related conditions develop...
Chronic Stress...
Acute Stress...
Indirect effects of stress on health & well being...
There are many indirect effects of stress on your health & well being, these are;
Lack of nutrition - not eating or over eating
Lack of sleep
Lack of Vitamins (Vitamin D)
Grinding teeth
Biting nails
Scratching skin
Reckless Behavior
Drinking/Smoking/Drug Abuse HIV/AIDS
Personality Types...
There are three different personality types which can play an important role in causing stress related illnesses.
Personality Type - A...
Emotionally Frustrated
Emotionally Cold
Personality Type - B...
Don't like being lazy
Like being active
Not bothered
Personality Type - X...
Self emotional
There is a problem in that not everyone has specific personality traits, some will have A traits & B traits & quite possibly X traits.
Personality Type - A Traits....
-Poor losers
-Achievement is equal to material productivity
-Self Critical
-Anger directed inwards
-Working against the clock
-Can't sit still
ime Pressures
Fried & Rosenman...
Fried & Rosenman tested to see if there was a relationship between Stress & Personality Factors. They did this by testing 3000 men aged between 39 & 59 for signs of CHD, and their personalities were tested by doing interviews.
After 8 & a half years, they found that twice as many Type A participants had died of Cardiovascular problems then any other personality type.
This is evidence that personality types do play a part or are related to Stress...
Coping with Stress - Physiological...
There are many ways you can cope with stress, there are many therapy techniques. However these methods are grouped into two categories; Physiological Methods, and Psychological Methods...
Physiological methods are methods which affect the body, such as drug therapies. Certain drugs can be used to help ease the effects of stress on the body, drugs such as Benzodiazepines, these are tranquilizers, common examples are Librium, & Valium. These tranquilizers slow down the activity of the nervous system.

Another group of drugs used are Beta-Blockers. These reduce the activity of adrenaline and noradrenaline which are part of the sympathomedullary system. They bind to the receptors on the cells of the heart and other parts of the body that are usually stimulated during arousal.
However there are strengths and weaknesses with this therapy...

Effectiveness - Drugs can be very effective in combating the effects of stress. They are powerful & tend to work fast.
Ease of use - They are easy to take, they require little effort to use by the user, they just need to remember to take the pills.
Addiction - there is a good chance that the people taking the pills may be addicted to them, 40 years ago Benzodiazepines contained certain barbiturates which were quite addictive i.e. patients exhibited withdrawel symptoms when they stopped taking them.
Side effects - There are some side effects to the drugs like Benzodiazepines. The side effects of this drug are 'paradoxical' symptoms (basically give off effects which are the opposite of what might be expected.)
Treating the symptoms rather than the problem - Drugs don't really treat the problem, they only treat the symptoms, so they are not that effective. They only help of they are still taking the pills, once they have stopped taking them the symptoms return. Stress such as Chronic stress requires more than drugs to cure it, and you can't really bandage it up and forget about it because of the drugs.
Psyhological methods of stress management...
The psychological approach to coping with stress deals with the mind, and gives the patient skills to use when they do get stressed, the two main psychological methods are:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) & SIT (Stress Inoculation Therapy).
SIT or Stress Inoculation Therapy is a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy developed specifically to deal with stress. This is different from other CBT therapies as it helps people develop a strategy before the problem arises.
The three stages of SIT:
1. Conceptualisation Phase-
The therapist and the client form a relationship & the client is educated about stress. For example they are taught to view perceived threats as problems to be solved and to break down global stressors into specific components which can be dealt with.
2. Skills aquisition phase (and rehearsal) -
Coping skills are taught and gradually rehearsed in real life. A variety of skills are taught and tailored to the indivial's own specific problems. These can include positive thinking, relaxation, social skills, methods of attention diversion, using social support systems and time management.
3. Application Phase (and follow through) -
Clients are given the opportunity to apply their newly learned skills to real life/personal situations.
Strengths & Weaknesses
of SIT...

Effectiveness - Meichenbaum compared SIT with another form of treatment called 'Systematic Desensitisation*. Patients used SIT or SD to deal with their snake phobias. Meichenbaum found that although both forms of therapy reduced the phobia, SIT was betteras it helped them overcome a second, non-treated phobia.
Preparation for future stressors - A major advantage with this method is that it doesn't just treat the stress caused by current stressors, but it gives the client the skills and confidence to deal with future problems
Time-Consuming and requires high motivation - SIT requires a lot of time, effort, motivation and money. It's strength's are also it's weaknesses - it's effective as it teaches new skills, but this then makes it a lengthy therapy which would suit only a limited range of determined individuals.
Unnecessarily complex - it may be that the effectiveness of SIT is due to certain elements of the training rather than all of it. That means that the range of activities & time can easily be reduced to simplify the therapy and not make it unnecessarily complex.
Hardiness Training...
There are three stages to Hardiness training these are
Focusing, Reliving stress encounters & Self - improvement.
Salvatore Maddi, who worked with Kobasa, founded the Hardiness Institute in California.
The client is taught how to recognise physiological signs of stress.
Reliving the encounters of stress:
The client relives stress encounters and and analyses these situations & responses.
Self - Improvement:
The insights gained can now be used to move forward & learn new techniques of dealing with stress.
*See Abnormality Prezi for definition
Life Changes...
Life changes are events in a person's life (such as divorce or bereavement) that require a significant adjustment in various aspects of a person's life. As such, they are significant sources of stress.
Holmes and Rahe (1967) developed the Social Readjusting Rating Scale, (SRRS). This is based on 43 life events taken from their analysis of over 5000 patient records, This has helped psychologists relate life events to physical illnesses, as we are now able to see how much stress is created within life changes.
(Social Readjustment Rating Scale)
Positive & negative events:
Research using the SRRS appears to suggest that any life-changing event has the potential to damage health because of the significant readjustment it entails. However, some critics now suggest that it is the quality of the event that is crucial, with 'undesired, unscheduled and uncontrolled' changes being the most harmful.
Spurious Relationship...
Most studies of the relationship between life changes and illness have produced correlational data, i.e. they do not tell us about any possible causal relationship between the two. It is possible that an observed relationship may result from a third variable - anxiety. Brown (1974) suggests that people with high levels of anxiety would be more likely to report negative life events and would also be more prone to illness.
Daily Hassles
Research suggests that daily hassles cause us to ignore 'daily uplifts' - positive everyday experience for example:
praising someone
helping someone
making someone happy
Why are daily hassles so stressful?
The frequency in which they occur.
Pre-existing chronic stressors.
Workplace Stress...
Lack of control...
Role Ambiguity
Lighting conditions, type of room, number of people - environment where you work in,
Dead-lines, too much work, amount of paper work.
Not being able to control the amount of work you get, being told what to do, people complaining about where you work.
When you're doing something that you are not supposed to do. Being asked to work more hours then your supposed to.
Personality factors are not considered in research.
Too much control can also cause stress.
Individual differences.
Exam Question - Outline & Evaluate research into stress-related illness. (12 marks)
Acute & chronic stress have been known to affect many different areas of the cardiovascular system, including the heart & circulatory system. There are three main disorders which can affect the cardiovascular system, and can be caused by stress, these are; Hypertension (which is high blood pressure), Coronary Heart Disease or CHD (which is caused by the narrowing of the coronary arteries) & Stroke (which is caused by the disruption of blood flow to the brain. However, not all illnesses can be related soley to stress, lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking & drinking can also affect your chances of developing any of the disorders mentioned. Stress has also been linked not only to biological disorders, but psychological ones too, such as anxiety & depression, this is more related to chronic stress, rather than acute stress.

There has been lots of research into stress related illnesses to try and see if there is a definite link between stress and illnesses. Williams et al. (2000) carried out a study to see if anger was linked to heart disease. He asked 13,000 people to complete a 10-question anger scale. None of the participants at the time suffered from heart disease, but six years later when the participants health was checked, he found that 256 participants had experienced heart attacks. This reasearch shows that there is a definite link between anger and heart disease.
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