AQA Psychology Unit 2: Stress

Complete notes on Stress, Stress & the Immune System, Stress in everyday life, Workplace stress, Personality and Stress Management.

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Stress:  What we feel as a result of an environmental trigger that puts us under pressure. 

Copyright S-cool ( is a type of alarm reaction, involving heightened mental and bodily states - it is both a psychological and a physiological response to the environment.

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The Transactional Model


Actual Coping Ability                                                      Actual Demands


Percieved coping ability                                                  Percieved demands


                                            Cognitive Appraisal


                            Mismatch between demands and coping ability


                           Feelings of stress and Bodily stress response

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Hans Selye: injected mice with extracts of organs lookinf for a hormone and found they produced symptoms and came up with:

                         G eneral A adaptation S yndrome.

       ALARM                                RESISTANCE                       EXHAUSTION

Fight or flight response,       Initially become resistant    Bodies run out hormones

  Stress hormones rise,            to stress & illness as           No longer able to resist 

  BP increases,                           hormones rise.                              stress.

Often Maladaptive               Hormones Remain High.         Part of body break down.             

GAS was influential in developing research into stress. We now think it is not USING UP HORMONES rather TOO MUCH HORMONES that cause stress. Carried out on animals = not easy to generalise. Hans saw it as a UNIVERSAL RESPONSE.

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G A S continued...

The GAS is mediated by 2 different bodily systems:

            SAM pathway.                                                          HPA axis.


Hypothalamus activates SYMPATHETIC               Hypothalamus stimulates PITITUARY  

branch of the nervous system.                             GLAND whish releases ACTH which in

ADRENAL MEDULLA releases                          turn stimulates the ADRENAL CORTEX


bodily arousal& preperation for using energy.       Liver releases energy, Immune system                                                                                               repressed. 

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Stress & Immune System.

                                 Effects of stress on the immune system:

  • INFECTION: physiological changes in stress direct resouces away from immune system making it function less effectivley.
  • INDIRECT EFFECTS: high levels or corticosteroids inhibit immune cell functioning.
  • INFLAMMATORY DISEASES: stress effects the immune system's ability to deal with pre-existing infalmatory diseases, making them worse.
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STRESS & Immune System cont...

                                                COHEN et al:

 AIM: If genral life stress effects vulnerabilty to common cold.

STUDY: 394 general population were asked about the number of stress events they had had in the past year and a stress rating was measured. Development of the common cold after 7 days was also measured.

FINDINGS: failure to fight cold correlated with stress scores. 

EVALUATION: correlation analysis=No Cause&Effect. Wide sample.

                                              KEICOLT-GLASER et al:

  AIM: Naturalistic life stressors and their impact on immune function.        

STUDY:  75 medcal students, blood taken 1 month before exam and again during exam time - NK cell activity measured. Also completed a quiestionnaire on life events and social isolation.                                                         

FINDINGS: NK cell activity significantly reduced during exam time. Greatest reductuion in students that reported social isolation. Brief naturalistic stressor reduces immune functioning making people more vulnerable.

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Stress in everyday life:

HOLMES and RAHE developed:

                          S ocial R eadjustment R ating S cale

This works on the principle that the more we have to adjust to a life event the more stressful it is. They got a list of typical Life Events and asked hundreds of people to rate them. "DEATH OF SPOUSE" rated highest and was given an LCU of 100 and all other events were ranked in relation to that.

                                                     RAHE et al:


STUDY: 2500 sailors given SRRS for 6 months and thier health was recorded daily

FINDINGS: 0.118 correlation between Life Eent scores and Illness. Number of life events  greater number of life events, the greater the likelihood of stress related illness. corellation.

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Stress in everyday life cont.

LAZARUS and TANNER devised 3 scales.

  • HASSLES scale 
  • UPLIFT scale
  • HS UPS scale

                                                  DELONGHIS et al:

POSITIVE CORRELATION with HEALTH STATUS and LIFE EVENT and HASSLES SCALE. Hassles correlation greater. UPLIFTS unrelated to health.

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Workplace Stress.

ENVIRONMENT:                          EVANS et al:

40 female cleric workers assigned to 3 hours in either quiet or low intensity office. Workers in noisy office = higher levels of stress and 40% less attempts at puzzle. BUT did not report stress.                                                                                               NOISE HAD MODEST BUT ADVERSE EFFECTS.

HOME-WORK INTERFERENCE:   PROF GARY COOPER:                        Divided loyalties, Conflict of work and family demands, Intrusion of problems      outside of work. 

CONTROL:                       GEER and MAISEL:                                         Showed participants coloured slides of victims of violence. 1 group had the power to stop the slides, the other didnt. Measures Galvanic Skin Response. Group with no control = Higher GSR's

WORKLOAD:                       MARMOT et al:                                      WHITEHALL STUDIES. 1) workers in low grade positions had TWICE ilness rate of high grade workers. DIFF in RISK FACTORS accounted for 1/4 difference.   2) 7000 participants data. similar diff in high grade and low grade but more significant factor was DECISION LATITUDE - higher decision latitude = lower vulnerability to stress related illnesses.  

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Personality and stress.


TYPA A Behaviour - Agressive, Tense, Hostile. consistently linked to CHD.

                                                  ROSENMAN et al:

3000 middle-aged men from West Coast USA. Categorised as either Type A or Type B. 8.5 years later 257 heart attacks recorded and 70% were Type A personality. HIGH TYPE A PERSONALITY VULNERABLE TO HEART ATTACKS.

KOBASA described concept of HARDINESS.


Felt people in Control had high Commtiment and saw problems as a Challenge rather than stressful.

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Stress Management.

Psychological Methods:

C ognitive B ehavioural T herapy: Psychologists identify certain faulty attribution styles or errors in thinking which make some individuals more susceptible to stress and replace them with rational ones.

S tress I noculation T raining: clients tend to have self-deafeting thoughts.3 stages:

  • CONCEPTUALISATION: identify source of stress. stress diary.
  • SKILLS TRAINING: taught techniques to deal with stress
  • APPLICATION: applied in real life situations.

HARDINESS Training: 3 stages:

  • FOCUSING: spot signs of stress
  • RECONSTRUCTION: look at previous situations and how to resolve them
  • SELF-IMPROVEMENT: trained to cope with stress and apply. 
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Stress Management cont...

Biological Methods:

Drugs treat symptoms of stress and make the person feel better but DO NOT reduce the source of stress.


Act in Brain. Increase action of GABA which increases a range of excitatory neurotransmitters, making a person calmer by quietening the brain.

Side effects: Tiredness, Sedation, Memory Impairment and Dependance.


Sympathetic Nervous System. Adrenaline/Noradrenaline bind to Beta Adregenic receptors and increase Sypmathic arousal. Block receptors, preventic sress hormones from binding.

Side effects: none.

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Hope this helped x 

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Mobeen !


Really good, thanks :)



Really helpful! Thankyou!

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