Introduction to Psychology

What Is Stress?
Your definition…
Stimulus or Response? Or interaction?
Stressor — (stimulus) event or situation that triggers
coping adjustments
Stress reaction – How do you respond to stress?
What are your “symptoms?”
physiological, cognitive, emotional, behavioral
Stress as process – interaction between event,
perception, and reaction
The Physiology of Stress
Walter Cannon
 Fight-or-flight reaction
 Outpouring of substances that prepare an
organism to defend against a threat
 Adaptive for our ancestors (but contributes to
stress-related illnesses in modern times)
Brain and Endocrine
System in Stress
Sympathoadreno-Medullary (SAM) System
The body’s initial, rapid-acting response to
stress -- epinephrine and norepinephrine from
the adrenal medulla
(HPAC) System
The body’s second response to stress -secretion of corticosteroid hormones from the
adrenal cortex
Stress Pathways
Measuring Stress
Physiological Measures
Polygraph or Biofeedback machine—records
several arousal responses, including heart rate, blood
pressure, respiration rate, and GSR (measure of the
skin’s resistance to electricity)
 Fluid samples – (e.g., saliva) to test for
catecholamine and cortisol production
Subjective Measures
 Stress questionnaires
Variability in
stress response
Stress reactivity: people vary in their
sweating, pupil dilation and changes in heart
rate when stressed.
Stress recovery: People vary in the speed
with which they return to normal after being
Stress resistance: People vary in their
stress responses due to coping, social support
Sources of Stress
List your top five stressors
 Common hassles
 School demands
 Noise – residents near airports have higher BP
& stress
 Crowding
 Relationship issues
 Sleep deprivation
 Job stress (next slides)
Job-Related Stress
Job-related stress costs:
reduced productivity
worker compensation benefits
Research study: “Overload
in Working Mothers”
BCBS workers
Urine samples (to look for metabolites of
stress hormones)
Daily mood scale
Results: feel stressed (esp w/ children at home)
 High stress (low perceived control + high demand)
 increased urinary neurohormones
Sources of Stress
Stressors (continued)
 Major life events (e.g., divorce, moves)
 Catastrophic stressors (next slide)
Sources of Stress:
Oklahoma City, 9/11, Katrina, etc.
Increased incidence of hypertension, heart disease,
and other stress-related ailments
Rates of depression, anxiety, and other
psychological disorders increase
New Orleans Suicide Rate May Be Up
Associated Press - September 14, 2006 –
New Orleans' suicide rate appears to have gone up in
the first six months after Hurricane Katrina
evacuees were allowed back home
How does a potential stressor
lead to stress?
Perception and stress
“I have had a great many
troubles in my life…
And most never happened…”
Mark Twain
Perceiving Stress
Many situations are not inherently stressful… depends
on appraisal:
• Primary appraisal — determination of an event’s
• Secondary appraisal — evaluation of one’s ability to
meet the demands of a challenging event
Cognitive appraisals are extremely susceptible to one’s
current state of mood, health, motivation
Stress and Illness
(next powerpoint)

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