Factors That Influence the Response to Stress

PSYC 2301
Chapter 13—Stress, Health, and Coping
What is Stress
• Stress-a negative emotional state occurring
in response to events that are perceived as
taxing or exceeding a person’s resources or
ability to cope
• Stressor-events or situations that produce
Health Psychology
• Focus on stress and how psychological
factors influence health, illness, and
• Biopsychosocial model-health and illness
are determined by the complex interaction
of biological, psychological, and social
Sources of Stress
• Life events and change
– Holmes and Rahe-Social Readjustment Rating
– People who had more than 150 life change
units within a year had an increased rate of
physical or psychological illness
Life Events Approach
• Problems
– Scores are not very good predictors
– Not take into account a person’s subjective
appraisal of an event, response to that event, or
ability to cope with the event
– Assumes that change in itself, whether good or
bad, produces stress
Daily Hassles
• Ordinary irritations in daily life
• Cumulative
• Feeling pulled between two opposing
desires, motive, or goals
• 3 basic types of conflicts
– approach-approach
– avoidance-avoidance
– approach-avoidance
Social and Cultural Factors
• When people live in an environment that is
inherently stressful, they often experience
ongoing, or chronic, stress. People in the
lowest social economic levels of society
tend to have highest levels of psychological
distress, illness, and death
• Stress can also result when people
encounter different cultural values
Physical Effects on Stress
• Stress can indirectly affect a person’s health
by prompting behaviors that jeopardize
physical well-being
• Stress can directly affect physical health by
altering body functions, leading to
symptoms, illness, or disease
Stress and the Endocrine System
Acute Stress
Prolonged Stress
nervous System
Adrenal medulla
Secretion of catecholamines
Increases respiration
Increases heart rate
Increases blood pressure
Increases blood flow to the muscles
Digestion is inhibited
Pupils dilate
ACTH release
Secretion of corticosteroids:
Increases release of stored energy
Reduces inflammation
Reduces immune system response
General Adaptation Syndrome
• Alarm stage-intense arousal occurs as the
body mobilizes internal physical resources
to meet the demands of the stress-producing
• Resistance stage-the body actively tries to
resist or adjust to the continuing stressful
• Exhaustion stage-symptoms of the alarm
stage reappear, only now irreversibly.
Stress and the Immune System
• Stress can diminish the effectiveness of the
immune system. The most important
elements of the immune system are
lymphocytes--the specialized white blood
cells that fight bacteria, viruses, and other
foreign invaders.
Ader and Cohen
• Conditioning the immune system
– Challenged the prevailing scientific view that
the immune system operated independently of
the brain and psychological processes
– Triggered interest in other possible influences
on the immune system, including the effects of
stress and emotional states
• The scientific study of the interconnections
among psychological processes, the nervous
and endocrine systems, and the immune
– The central nervous system and the immune
system are directly linked
– The surfaces of lymphocytes contain receptor
sites for neurotransmitters and hormones,
including catecholamines and cortisol
– Lymphocytes themselves produce
neurotransmitters and hormones
Stressors That Can Influence the
Immune System
• Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and husband,
immunologist Ronald Glaser, found that
even commonplace events can adversely
affect the immune system
Factors That Influence the
Response to Stress
• Psychological factors
Personal Control
Explanatory Style: Optimism vs. Pessimism
Chronic Negative Emotions
Type A Behavior and Hostility
Factors That Influence the
Response to Stress
• Social Factors
– Social support benefits health
– Relationships with others also can be a
significant source of stress
– Gender differences in the effects of social
• The ways we try to change circumstances,
or interpretations of circumstances, to make
them less threatening.
– Problem-Focused
– Emotion-Focused
Coping: How People Deal with
• Problem-Focused
– Confrontive Coping
– Planful problem solving
Coping: How People Deal with
• Emotion-Focused
Seeking social support
Positive reappraisal
Culture and Coping Strategies
• Individualistic
– Emphasize personal autonomy and personal
responsibility in dealing with problems; favor
problem-focused strategies
• Collectivistic
– Emphasis is placed on controlling personal
reactions to a stressful situation; favor emotionfocused strategies

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