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Chapter 3 Stress and Its Effects.

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1 Chapter 3 Stress and Its Effects

2 The Nature of Stress Stress is “any circumstances that threaten, or are perceived to threaten, one’s well-being and thereby tax one’s ability to cope”. Stress has several characteristics: Stress is a common, everyday event. Both major and minor problems can be stressful. Even daily “hassles” can have negative effects on our well-being. Stressful events have a cumulative impact.

3 The Nature of Stress (cont.)
Stress is subjective. Not everyone feels the same degree of stress from the same event. The difference may depend on how we appraise events. We first make a “primary appraisal”, or initial evaluation of the relevance, level of threat, and degree of stress the event brings. If viewed as stressful, we make a “secondary appraisal”, or an evaluation of our ability to cope.

4 Figure 3. 1 Pathways for primary and secondary appraisal of stress
Figure 3.1 Pathways for primary and secondary appraisal of stress. According to Lazarus and Folkman (1984), the appraisal of potentially stressful events is a two-step process. First we make a primary appraisal of whether an event appears threatening. If it is, we then make a secondary appraisal of whether we have the resources to cope with the challenge. Stress occurs when people feel that they may have difficulty coping with the event. Figure 3.1

5 The Nature of Stress (cont.)
Stress is embedded in the environment. “Ambient” stress refers to chronic negative environmental conditions, such as noise in the workplace. Stress may be influenced by culture. Culture may affect which types of stress we experience. Cultural change is a major source of stress in most cultures.

6 The Nature of Stress (cont.)
Stress may be self-imposed. Often, we make choices that create stress. (e.g. taking extra classes to finish a degree early.) (e.g. taking on extra work to get a promotion.)

7 Major Types of Stress There are two basic categories of stress: Acute stressors – threatening events with short durations and clear endpoints. (e.g. evacuating for a hurricane) (e.g. studying for finals) 2. Chronic stressors – threatening events with long durations and no apparent endpoint. (e.g. living with a serious medical condition) (e.g. living in poverty)

8 Major Types of Stress (cont.)
There four major types of stress: Frustration – situations in which pursuit of a goal is thwarted. Conflict – deciding between two or more incompatible goals or behavior.

9 Major Types of Stress (cont.)
Conflicts come in three types (see Fig. 3.3): Approach – approach – must make a choice between two attractive goals. Avoidance – avoidance – must make a choice between two unattractive goals. Approach – avoidance – must choose whether or not to pursue ONE goal, which has both pros and cons. This conflict causes the greatest stress.

10 Figure 3. 3 Types of conflict
Figure Types of conflict. Psychologists have identified three basic types of conflict. In approach-approach or avoidance-avoidance conflicts, the person must choose between two goals. In an approach-avoidance conflict only one goal is under consideration, but it has both positive and negative aspects. Figure 3.3

11 Major Types of Stress (cont.)
Change Holmes and Rahe believe both positive and negative life changes are associated with physical illness. They developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) to assess risk due to life changes. Pressure (see Fig. 3.6) Two types of pressure are important: Pressure to perform Pressure to conform

12 Figure 3. 6 Pressure and psychological symptoms
Figure Pressure and psychological symptoms. A comparison of pressure and life change as sources of stress suggests that pressure may be more strongly related to mental health than change is. In one study, Weiten (1988) found a correlation of .59 between scores on the Pressure Inventory (PI) and symptoms of psychological distress. In the same sample, the correlation between SRRS scores and psychological symptoms was only .28. Figure 3.6

13 Responding to Stress Stress responses occur at three levels: Emotional responses Physiological responses Behavioral responses Emotional responses are usually negative and fall into three categories: 1. Annoyance, anger, and rage 2. Apprehension, anxiety, and fear 3. Dejection, sadness, and grief

14 Responding to Stress (cont.)
However, stress can prompt positive emotional responses which in turn: Increase creativity, flexibility in problem solving, and Enhance immune system functioning, increase valuable social support and promote proactive coping.

15 Responding to Stress (cont.)
Strong emotions may hamper or enhance our ability to cope with stress, depending on our level of arousal and the task complexity. The “Inverted U hypothesis” predicts that: for low complexity tasks, a high level of arousal is best; for medium complexity tasks, a medium level of arousal is best; and for high complexity tasks, a low level of arousal is best.

16 Responding to Stress (cont.)
Physiological responses. The “fight-flight” response is a physiological response to the threat that mobilizes the organism for attacking (fight) or fleeing (flight) an enemy. It occurs in the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which is made up of the nerves that connect to the heart, blood vessels, smooth muscles, and glands.

17 Responding to Stress (cont.)
The ANS is broken into two divisions (see Fig. 3.9): Sympathetic division – mobilizes energy during emergencies, engages the “fight-flight” response. Parasympathetic division – conserves energy, has calming effect on body. Unfortunately, the fight-flight response is not well suited for coping with modern threats.

18 Figure 3. 10 The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
Figure The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS is composed of the nerves that connect to the heart, blood vessels, smooth muscles, and glands. The ANS is subdivided into the sympathetic division, which mobilizes bodily resources in times of need, and the parasympathetic division, which conserves bodily resources. Some of the key functions controlled by each division of the ANS are summarized in the center of the diagram. Figure 3.10

19 Responding to Stress (cont.)
Hans Seyle’s “General Adaptation Syndrome” is a three-phase model of the body’s reaction to chronic stress (see Fig. 3.10). Alarm phase – initial response to threat, fight-flight response engages. Resistance phase – if threat continues, physiological changes stabilize, coping begins. Exhaustion phase – if threat continues too long, body’s resources are depleted, leading to physical exhaustion and illness.

20 Figure 3. 11 The general adaptation syndrome
Figure The general adaptation syndrome. According to Selye, the physiological response to stress can be broken into three phases. During the first phase, the body mobilizes its resources for resistance after a brief initial shock. In the second phase, resistance levels off and eventually begins to decline. If the third phase of the general adaptation syndrome is reached, resistance is depleted, leading to health problems and exhaustion. Figure 3.11

21 Responding to Stress (cont.)
Two Brain-Body Pathways control our physiological responses to stress (see Fig. 3.12): 1.The Catecholamine Pathway – hypothalamus activates sympathetic system; adrenal glands release catecholamines that mobilize the body for action. 2.The Corticosteroid Pathway – hypothalamus signals pituitary gland to secrete ACTH; adrenal cortex to release corticosteroids that increase energy.

22 Figure 3. 13 Brain-body pathways in stress
Figure Brain-body pathways in stress. In times of stress, the brain sends signals along two pathways. The pathway through the autonomic nervous system (shown in blue on the right) controls the release of catecholamine hormones that help mobilize the body for action. The pathway through the pituitary gland and the endocrine system (shown in brown on the left) controls the release of corticosteroid hormones that increase energy and ward off tissue inflammation. Figure 3.13

23 Responding to Stress (cont.)
Behavioral Responses to stress usually refer to coping, or active efforts to master, reduce, or tolerate the demands created by stress. Coping response may be either: Healthy (e.g., actively trying to solve problem by asking for help or generating solutions) or Unhealthy (e.g., ignoring problem, indulging in alcohol or excessive eating).

24 The Potential Effects of Stress
Impaired task performance. Stress can cause people to “freeze up”, or “crack under pressure”. Elevated self-consciousness can disrupt attention to task. Disruption of cognitive function. Increased tendency to jump to conclusions. Decreased ability to carefully review options. Decreased memory function.

25 The Potential Effects of Stress (cont.)
Burnout – physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and lowered sense of self-efficacy that is attributable to work-related stress. Factors in workplace that promote burnout include lack of control over responsibilities, work overload, and lack of recognition. Burnout can result in increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and risk of illness. See Figure 3.13 for complete model.

26 Figure 3. 14 The antecedents, components, and consequences of burnout
Figure The antecedents, components, and consequences of burnout. Christina Maslach and Michael Leiter have developed a systematic model of burnout that specifies its antecedents, components, and consequences. The antecedents on the left in the diagram are the stressful features of the work environment that cause burnout. The burnout syndrome itself consists of the three components shown in the center of the diagram. Some of the unfortunate results of burnout are listed on the right. (Based on Leiter & Maslach, 2001). Figure 3.14

27 The Potential Effects of Stress (cont.)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – is an enduring psychological disturbance attributed to the experience of a major traumatic event. Symptoms include: Re-experiencing trauma via nightmares, flashbacks. Emotional numbing, alienation, problems in social relations. Elevated arousal, anxiety, and guilt.

28 The Potential Effects of Stress (cont.)
Also associated with increase substance abuse, depression, suicide attempts & physical illness.

29 The Potential Effects of Stress (cont.)
Psychological problems and disorders. Stress may contribute to: Poor academic performance; Insomnia and other sleep disturbances; Sexual difficulties; and Substance abuse.

30 The Potential Effects of Stress (cont.)
Physical illness. “Psychosomatic” diseases are genuine physical ailments thought to be caused by stress. Common psychosomatic diseases include: High blood pressure Peptic ulcers Asthma Eczema and hives Migraine and tension headaches

31 The Potential Effects of Stress (cont.)
Positive Effects: There are at least three ways that stress can have positive effects. It satisfies need for stimulation and challenge; It can promote personal growth or self-improvement; and It can inoculate us against future stress.

32 Factors Influencing Stress Tolerance
Some people withstand stress better than others. There are many moderator variables that may reduce the impact of stress on physical and mental health. They include: Social support – aid by members of our social network. Hardiness – “hardy” people are highly committed, have a sense of control, and embrace challenge.

33 Factors Influencing Stress Tolerance (cont.)
Optimism – general tendency to expect good outcomes. Individuals with a “pessimistic explanatory style” blame themselves for failures. Those with an “optimistic explanatory style” attribute setbacks to temporary situational factors. Optimists are more likely to use effective coping methods and are more likely to seek social support. Optimism also linked with better health and longevity.

34 Factors Influencing Stress Tolerance (cont.)
Conscientiousness – tendency to be diligent, punctual and dependable. Conscientiousness is also linked with longevity, but it is unclear why. In summary, many mediating variables interact to determine how well an individual will respond to stress (see Figure 3.15).

35 Figure 3. 16 Overview of the stress process
Figure Overview of the stress process. This diagram builds on Figure 3.7 (our multidimensional response to stress) to provide a more complete overview of the factors involved in stress. This diagram adds the potential effects of stress (seen on the far right) by listing some of the positive and negative adaptational outcomes that may result from stress. It also completes the picture by showing that moderating variables (seen at the top) can intervene to influence the effects of stress. Figure 3.16

36 Application: Monitoring Your Stress
Although commonly used, the SRRS has been criticized on the following grounds: It may measure desirability of events more than life changes per se. It ignores subjective perception of how stressful various events are. Many items are ambiguous.

37 Application: Monitoring Your Stress (cont.)
It does not sample from the domain of stressful events very thoroughly. Correlations between SRRS scores and health outcomes may be inflated because they are both attributable to neuroticism. The Life Experiences Survey (LES) is an alternative tool that aims to address these problems (see Figure 3.18).

38 Figure 3.16

39 Application: Monitoring Your Stress (cont.)
Individuals should exercise caution in using the LES, however, and keep in mind that: The strength of association between stress and illness is modest. Stress is only one of many variables that affects vulnerability to illness. Finally, you can always use what you have learned to manage stress better!

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