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Personality and Temperament: Effects on the Stress Response

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Lauren Dorsey-Spitz

on 7 December 2013

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Transcript of Personality and Temperament: Effects on the Stress Response

Personality and Temperament: Effects on the Stress Response
What is the Stress Response?
What's Personality got to do with it?
How is our physiology effected by personality related stress response? How is our health impacted by the way an individual perceives, responds to, and copes with environmental stressors?
Relevance to every day human practice
How do we react effectively to the ever changing external environment?
Neuroendocrine Control
1. Stimulus
2. Sensation Receptors
3. Integration at the Control Center
Control Mechanism:
Utilized in the body to maintain relatively stable internal environment (homeostasis) and/or responds to external stimuli in an appropriate manner
homeostatic balance
- dynamic state of equilibrium involving both the endocrine and nervous system in continuous regulation and monitoring of many internal factors
nervous system mode of action
- acts through electrical impulses (action potentials) that provide a fast and immediate response
endocrine system mode of action
- acts through hormones that travel through the circulatory system resulting in slower but longer lasting signals
Produces a change in a specific physiologic variable
hot temperature
cold temperature
change in sound
change in environment (resting zebra being attacked by lion)
change in course load
change in sleeping pattern
change in mating pattern
Sensory receptors monitor the environment and respond to stimuli
Sensory Input
receptors detects changes in the environment and respond by sending action potentials along an afferent sensory neuron to the control center (hypothalamus)
pain receptors
stretch receptors
EXAMPLE: tactile receptors in skin
Pacinian corpuscles
: pressure receptors found deep within your skin that provide information regarding the weight of an object due to the stretch or compression of the skin
Meissner corpuscles
: fine-touch receptors abundantly found in your fingertips providing information about an object such as texture, shape and density to your brain for processing
Hypothalamus determines the set point at which the particular variable is maintained and determines an appropriate response to the sensory input received
Acts as the control center for the body by determining the homeostatic stable set point for each internal variable.
Receives afferent sensory input at synapse within the hypothalamus
Determines the correct response to return the variable back to a homeostatic level
4. Output to Effector
Hypothalamus sends information along an efferent pathway (primarily the HPA or SAM axis) to the effector organ
HPA axis: Hypothalmic-pituitary axis regulates endocrine system by stimulating the adrenal cortex
1. Hypothalamus releases corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) that stimulates the Anterior Pituitary
2. The anterior pituitary then releases adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) that stimulates the adrenal cortex
3. The adrenal cortex then releases cortisol which then stimulates cells to increase glucose production
SAM axis: a stimulis is recognized by brain through stress reception and activates the physiologic fight or flight systems that initiate stress response
1. Stimuli is detected
2. Sensory neurons deliver information to brain via AP on afferent pathway
3. Autonomic nervous system is stimulated and sends AP via effector sympathetic neurons to the adrenal medulla
4. Adrenal medulla is stimulated to secrete acetocholine in the form of epinephrine
5. Epinephrine enters the blood and activates the fight or flight response
5. Effector Response
Effector organ receives output information from the hypothalamus and provides means to respond to the change in variable by reducing or enhancing stimuli via feedback loops
6. Homeostasis Achieved
Effector feeds back to reduce effects of the response and returns variable to its normal homeostatic level
What is Stress?
Sequence of events: Autonomic nervous system innervation that results in an involuntary response to the changing external environment via sympathetic nervous system
- stimulus that can take an environmental, physical, or psychological (both real or imagined) form
Stress reception
- recognized by the brain through sensory reception pathways
Stress reponse
- brain activates the physiological fight or flight systems to act accordingly

How can stress really affect my body?
This video compiles a short summary of the stress response and how it relates to effector organs. These organs are stimulated through the physiologic stress response to respond to the given stressor in an appropriate manner so that hemeostatic balance is once again achieved.
How do we perceive stressors in our every day lives?
Stressors are inevitable due to the fact we live in an external world that continues to change around us. These stresses can range from environmental and physical adaptations our body must undergo to effectively survive in an environment, or psychological stressors associated with the high paced society many of us now live in today. The primary stress response however, is not only affected by the presence of a stressor, but also our subjective reactions to stressors in the environment. (Lazarus, 1991)
2 Levels of Subjective Reaction
: if both are present (you see a threat and fail to cope) you will exhibit very high levels of stress in response to a stimulus
1. Primary Appraisal
- recognizing a stressor is present
- the ability to perceive an event as a threat or not
- depending on personality one person could perceive a certain event as a concerning threat, whereas another could look at the same stressor and perceive it as a simple challenge to overcome
2. Secondary Appraisal
- (failure to cope)person's self evaluation of whether or not they believe they can cope with this stressor
-those who believe they cannot cope with a particular stressor are much more likely to experience high levels of stress
Major Conclusions:
Coping Strategies & Styles
Attributional Styles- 2 opposing coping mechanisms for bad events
: response to a bad event is focused on negative life events that will affect every aspect of their lives and it will never change
more association and likelihood of depression and stress
: response to a bad event as a temporary setback that will not affect every aspect of life

The A, B, C's of Personality: How do we define personality?
Clinical Psychologist Peter Brown (Psychology News & Resources)
-Animals are strongly individualistic, and primates especially have shown significant differences in personalities, temperament, and coping styles (Sapolsky, 311)
- No personality is set in stone, however they do predispose you to exhibit certain tendencies, temperaments and responses to particular stimuli- -Personalities can overlap and easily adapt or be taught to overcome certain negative aspects of their personality

Type A Personality:
goal oriented
pushes toward winning the gold
does not compromise
have high expectations of everyone (including themselves)
set high standards
hard headed
hard to relate emotionally with others
other people rarely meet their standards
Type B Personality:
easy going attitude
fun loving
less competitive
better at relaxing
do not feel pressured into deadlines
take the time to smell the roses
take failures with a grain of salt
have self control
less likely to show aggression or a temper
very emotional and sensitive
Type C Personality:
very sensitive
do not like risks
Type D Personality:
little ambition of their own
socially awkward
poor ability to cope with stress
Cardiovascular System
Digestive System
Endocrine System
Reproductive Systems
"People habitually differ in how they modulate their stress-responses with psychological variables. Your style, temperament, your personality have much to do with whether you regularly perceive opportunities for control or safety signals when they are there, whether you consistently interpret ambiguous circumstances as implying good news or bad news, whether you typically seek out and take advantage of social support." (Sapolsky, 309)
Differences in personality and temperament carry distinctive physiological consequences and disease risks related to stress.
How has stress played a role throughout evolution?
Animals throughout time have been forced to adjust to the changing external environment through stress- response mechanisms previously addressed.
Conserved stress response mechanisms have evolved for 3 minute physical stressors that assist in returning animal back to homeostasis
Human and some other mamals can induce physiological changes due to emotional, memory, or thought due to the complex thinking associated with the neocortex
chronic psychological stress can result: long term disruptions to homeostasis that have debilitating effects to the health of the animal
Regardless if the stressor is real (lion chasing a zebra) or imagined (worrying about a presentation the next morning), the same stress-responses are initiated to help your body liberate energy and deal with the stressor effectively
Sympathetic Nervous System: Fight or Flight Stress Response
Nervous System Stress Response:
stimulates the SNS and inhibits the PNS
Endocrine System Stress Reponse:
regulates via hormone production
Systemic changes that allow animal to respond to stressor effectively(evolutionarily conserved stress response process):
mobilization of glucose from fat/liver storage into bloodstream
increase in blood pressure allowing the increase glucose in blood to reach muslces in 2-3 seconds
hormones stimulate the hippocampus and increase short term memory
shuts down long term projects in order to conserve energy for the present stressor

Our bodies are NOT designed for chronic stress!
chronic physical or psychological stress can lead to:
- increased rates of mental and physical illnesses
- depletes resources
- inhibits the immune system
Personality As told by Robert M. Sapolsky....
Sapolsky demonstrates the evolutionary advantages or disadvantages of particular personality types through the study of a highly social troop of baboons in Serengeti. Serengeti serves as a perfect place to live with relatively low amount of threats from predators, infant mortality rates, or lack of available nutrients for the population. Rather, the majority of stressors exist due to the social hierarchy and competitive nature of the social structure of the troop. This relates perfectly with the social derived stressors of humans day to day lives.

higher ranking half of heirarchy displayed behavioral traits associate with lower gluccocorticoid levels (less stress response)
able to differentiate a threat or a non-threat (threatening interaction with a competing baboon or a neutral interaction)
cannot tell the differenc
e= resting gluccocorticoids are twice as high as those that can determine the difference
able to react effectively to a true threat
sit passivel
y= those baboons that wait for the fight to come to them give up control of the situation and have much
higher glucocorticoids
strike first
= take control of the situation and have
lower glucocorticoid levels
able to determine if he won or lost the fight
those that
react the same
regardless of a win or loss cannot tell if life is improving or getting worse and show
higher level of gluccocorticoids
Best Physiologic Behavioral Attributes (lower base glucocorticoids)- better coping with physiological stressors
- traits proved to be beneficial over individual's lives and carried big payoffs
tell the difference between a threat and neutral stimuli
take initiative during a threatening stressor
can tell whether they won or lost
Translates to what Beneficial Personality Traits?
social control
outlets for frustration
Worst Physiological Behavioral Traits (higher gluccorticoid levels):
inability to determine difference between threat and neutral event
passive in threatening situation
cannot tell the difference between winning or losing and act the same regardless
inability to keep competition in perspective
social isolation
Translates to What Negative Personality Traits?
high-reactors that show signs of anxiety
Nervous System
Negative personality traits discussed earlier contribute to an inappropriate activation of the physiologic stress response via ANS innervation. The fight or flight mechanism is activated producing high levels of gluccocorticoid stress hormone release within the body that trigger ALL organ systems and alter them in the following ways...
SNS Innervation:

Temporary negative personality traits:
arouses hippocampus into a more alert and activated state inducing memory consolidation
long term potentiation of the nervous system memory mechanism requires large amoung of energy (mobilization of energy)
increased oxygen and glucose levels arrive at brain to allow for slightly enhanced cognition for short periods of time
Chronic negative personality traits
disrupts declarative memory
less oxygen and glucose to the brain
disrupts long term potentitation at the hippocampus
neurogenesis shuts down
endangers neurons at the hippocampus (chronically high gluccorticoids can kill neurons at hippocampus)
Cushings Syndrome
Tumors that result from chronically high levels of gluccocorticoids that reveals itself through symptoms of dimentia
disrupted memory problems with declarative memory
high blood pressure and immune system suppression
reproductive problems
hippocampus atrophies
SNS Innervation:
Temporary negative personality traits (adaptive): delivers more blood and oxygen to heart during truly threatening stressors
increased heart rate
increased blood pressure
increased secretion of gluccocorticoids that activate neurons and initiate SNS enhancing effects of epinephrine and norepinephrine
vasoconstrict veins= incrases the force by which the heart must pump blood to the periphery and back to the heart (blood moves with greater force)
heart walls distend more allowing for greater contraction
Chronic negative personality traits (maladaptive): hypertension and cardiovascular complications
vessels are forced to work harder than normal due to incrased force of blood flow over long periods of time
vessels become thick and rigid (atherosclerosis)- plaques begin to build and obstruct blood flow
can result in claudication= obstruction of blood flow to the systemic legs and arms
increased inflammation in arterial vessels could eventually become damaged
hypertension increases the likelihood of substances circulating and sticking to inflamed and damaged vessels
= damage to the corotid artery
heart attack
= damage to the coronary arteries
left ventricular hypertrophy
= heart muscle is forced to thicken due to the increased force of blood traveling back to heart
hardening of arteries due to the chronic secretion of gluccocorticoids and added stress on heart to produce greater contractions during long periods of vasoconstricted stress response
plagues form and build up on arterial vessel walls
stress incrases risk of plaques dislodging off wall and enteing systemic system (thrombus)
myocardial infarction
= thrombus clogs the coronary arteries
brain infarction
= thrombus clogs the corotid artery
Myocardial Ischemia:
lack of blood flow due to plaque build up
chronically elevated stress hormones induce vasoconstriction in coronary arteries
angiopectoris= chest pain can result due to lack of blood flow
activating the SNS too often due to personality (anxiety or over reacting tendencies) can result in damage to blood vessels
Coronary Heart Disease:
Blood pressure chronically elevated
associated with individuals at top and bottom of social hierarchy
increased circulating epinephrine causes circulating platelets to aggregated and produce clots
atherosclerosis develops much easier
SNS Innervation: results are the same regardless of temporary or chronic, however chronically produced SNS endocrine hormones have maladaptive effects on other effector organs
HPA Axis: Hypothalmic-pituitary axis
regulates endocrine system response by activating adrenal cortex
Adrenal Cortex: produces stress hormones in the form of gluccorticoids or catecholamines
hormones affect stress response in all vertebrates
SNS Innervation:
Temporary personality traits: competitive nature, taking initiative, assertive, outgoing
SNS (HPA axis)=increased gluccocorticoids stimulates the release of energy and liberation of energy molecules from storage
triglycerides are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol and sent in blood
glycogen found in liver is broken down into glucose
non-exercising muscle is broken down into proteins and amino acids
glucagon is broken down into glucose
stress hormones also block energy uptake into non-exercising muscles
cortisol sends amino acids to liver to convert non-carbohydrate substrates into glucose through gluconeogenesis
insulin secretion is reduced, therefore storage of glucose is reduced (PNS is inhibited)
gluccorticoids block transfer of nutrients into fat cells and also blocks insulin receptors (no storage of glucose)
Chronically negative personality traits results in chronic secretion of gluccocorticoids: depression, anxiety, socially withdrawn
every time energy is mobilized- large amount of potential energy is lost through the process of shuttling nutrients into and out of blood stream
muscles can never recover from breakdown
higher levels of circulating glucose results in atherosclerosis- increases chances of glucose sticking to vessel walls and causing damage to vessels
increases LDL (bad cholesterol that increases triglycerides in cardiovascular system)
decreases HDL (good cholesterol)
increased likelihood of Diabetes Type II and weight gain
Diabetes Type II
non-insulin dependent disease
excess nutrients leads to failure of cells responding to insulin
constantly elevated blood glucose levels and fatty acids increases likelihood of atherosclerosis and can lead to Type I diabetes as well
increased gluccocorticoids pushes cells to become more insulin resistant
Cardiovascular Disease
increased gluccocorticoids act on fat cells to make less responsive to insulin (more glucose in blood)
adipokines- released by fat cells to make muscle and liver cells less responsive to insulin (more glucose in blood)
fat cells also release pro-inflammatory cytokines
Weight Gain
increased level of gluccocorticoids causes systemic mobilization of glucose
cells are less responsive to insulin (more glucose in blood)
body recognizes a stressor and initiates a way to replace nutrients loss during stressor= increased appetite
SNS Innervation:
Temporary personality behaviors (usually does not alter reproductive system at such low levels of gluccocorticoid hormone release): competitive nature, taking initiative
thickens uterus wall later
grow antlers later
conserve energy to deal with immediate stressor

Chronic maladpative personality traits (can potentially have negative, downregulating effects on the reproductive system: depression, anxiety, chronic overreacting, pessimistic
hypothalmic release of GNRH is decreased due to higher gluccocorticoid levels
B-endorphin and cortisol (gluccocorticoids) downregulate the anterior pituitary- reduces the release of FSH and LH
receptors on the anterior pituitary are also less responsive to the little amount of GNRH that is released from the hypothalamus
ovaries/testes are less stimulated and less sensitive to little FSH and LH that are secreted
Female Consequences
decreased estrogen= less chance of fertilization
decreased progesterone= do not thicken uterine walls which lessens the likelihood of implantation and a pregnancy continuing
increase prolactin= interferes with activity of estrogen and progesterone (can act as a contraceptive if kept at chronically high levels)
lower proceptivity
lower receptivity
Male Consequences
decreased testosterone= not great issue because only small amount of testosterone is required to make sperm and maintain normal proception/reception
cannot sustain or initiate erection
requires PNS innervation to initiate erection and sustain a calm and stress free innervation until ejaculation
chronic release of gluccocorticoids due to anxiety or depression like personality can inhibit the likelihood of erection
premature ejaculation= PNS allows for initiation of erection, however SNS innervates penis too soon and induces premature ejaculation
Learned Helplessness
Taking Initiative
Celebrate positives
Gaining support
Not consumed with power or hierarchy
spends time with family and friends
Temperaments are not set in stone... how will you change the next time you address a stressor in your life?
BETTER Coping Traits
BAD Coping Traits
Prosocial Personality Traits and Adaptation to Stress
Gloria Garcia Banda and Mateu Servera
Social Behavior and Personality, 2011, 39(10), 1337-1348
investigated cortisol levels related to different personalities of individuals before and after an oral speech
public speaking was in fact associated with a stressor and thus induced increased levels of cortisol compared to baseline
socially evaluative tasks (such as giving a speech) produce a response that would elicit a threat to the self- stress response
the personality trait of
was found to be associated with heightened cortisol during stressor conditions, suggesting that heightened cortisol secretions during acute stress are
these individuals are linked to better health outcomes due to more self control, responsibility and pro-social attitude towards others
They also found the basal cortisol levels in conscientious individuals to be l
ower than baseline of other personality traits
, suggesting the effective increase in cortisol during acute stress is in fact an indication of great adaptation to stressors
smaller cortisol responses were found in
- associated with psychopathy and inhibited stress response
this lack of effective stress response would make sense due to the antisocial, impulsive, defiant and aggressive behaviors associated with this personality
The influence of neuroticism, extraversiona and openness on stress responses
Tamera R. Schneider
Stress and Health, 2012, (28) 102-110
investigating the influence of positive aspects of personality: extroversion and openness through stress responses
personality works through appraisals to impact stress responses, and personality plays a role in unique and significant aspects of the stress response pathway
Neuroticism (negative control personality trait)
: predicts higher threat appraisals, lower positive affects, and higher negative effects
those higher in neurotic behavior performed worse in a stressful task and experienced higher threat appraisals
: predicted higher positive effects and lower negative effects
: lower negative effects and better task performance
Blog: PhysioBLOGology3
Post: "I Think I Can, I Think I Can"... Why we can all learn a little something from Thomas the Train.
Link: http://physioblogology3.blogspot.com/2013/09/i-think-i-can-i-think-i-can-why-we-can.html

This blog post perfectly addresses one of the many positive outcomes of personality traits that promote self-affirming practices related to optimistic thought. The power of thought is believed to have a great influence in convincing ourselves how we are going to (as instinctive and evolved mammals) go about tackling any particular stressor in our lives. Different personalities perceive different events as threatening or not threatening. It is this ability to distinguish between a life threatening event (such as a lion actually chasing us in a Savannah) or a non-life threatening event (finishing the last mile of a 10K where you most likely won't die). Those that are able to convince themselves they can overcome small obstacles with ease, such as optimists, many times have a better performance and outcome. Those that perceive threats to be anywhere and everywhere are more likely to inappropriately induce the stress response chronically over time and ultimately exhibit poor performance in the task at hand.
A book that has gained quite a bit of attention and fame over the years is "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne. One of my father's favorite books now passed down to me has dramatically changed the way I look at my world and the way I address issues in my life. Rhonda believes that positivity is the key to success, happiness, and overall fulfillment in life. What Rhonda doesn't know is positivity also can have dramatically beneficial effects on one's overall ability to perceive stressful situtation, cope with said stressful situations, and move on from to happier and stress free days to come. Understanding how certain personalities perceive stress and cope with stressful situations, allowed me to truly see the beneficial impact faith and positivity can have on your effective (adaptive) stress responses that allow us to cope effectively with environmental simtuli, and stray away from maladaptive and almost toxic personality traits that view every stressor as a never-ending string of bad events. Ultimately, this outlook has advantageous traits that could lead to reduced basal gluccocorticoid levels and more adaptive stress responses that I hope to employ every day.
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