the body's response to stress

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Psychology Notes Stress
The body's response to stress
Background info and some key terms
Stress is experienced when persons perceived social and physical demands
exceed their perceived ability to cope (the lack of fit between a person and
their environment).
The body's responds in a fight or flight manner. Fight or flight is when an
animal is energised to either fight or run away but has to come to terms with a
general state of energised readiness.
The body's response to acute stress is different than that to chronic stress.
Hormones are substance produced by an organ or gland of the body, only
affecting specific target cells in the body.
Neurotransmitter is a substance released from the end of one neuron into the
synapse causing the adjacent neuron to be excited or inhibited.
The sympathomedullary pathway deals with acute stress. The influence of the SNS
and adrenal medulla prepares the body for fight or flight when faced with an acute
1. Acute stress arouses the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This is a system
that governs itself.
2. The ANS is divided into the sympathetic branch (SNS) and the
parasympathetic nervous system.
3. The SNS arouses the animal to be ready for fight or flight and the
parasympathetic nervous system gets the body back to normal state.
4. The sympathetic branch is divided into the sympathetic adrenal medullary
system (SAM) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) . Together they
make up the sympathomedullary pathway.
5. The SNS releases a neurotransmitter ( noradrenaline ) which travels to every
organ in the body and gland, preparing the body for actions necessary when
an animal is under threat. e,g dilate eyes, increase heart rate, increase blood
6. The SAM makes the body release adrenaline into the bloodstream to prepare
the animal for fight or flight. The SAM system is regulated by the SNS and the
adrenal medulla.
7. The parasympathetic nervous system returns the body to its original state
when the stressor is dealt with. E.g. it returns the heartbeat to normal again
and reduces the blood pressure.

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Psychology Notes Stress
The hypothalamic pituitaryadrenal axis acts as a response to chronic stress. It
controls levels of cortisol (CORT) in the bloodstream. Physical and emotional
stressors activate the HPA and compared to the sympathomedullary pathway the
HPA system is easier to activate.
1. Stress is perceived by the hypothalamus .…read more

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Psychology Notes Stress
Too much cortisol supresses the immune response shutting down the very
process that fights infection.
Researchers believe that the feedback system may breakdown if individuals
are exposed to chronic stress.…read more


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