AS AQA PSYA2 Psychology- Stress Introduction

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  • Created by: Ruth Butt
  • Created on: 30-05-13 10:06

Fight or Flight Response (FOFR)

During evolution, the FOFR would have enabled us to be aware of physical dangers and predators, therefore to respond to these, we needed energy, fast. However, today stressors are more psychological than physical, therefore our FOFR is not needed and can be damaging.

When FOFR is repeatedly activated, 3 problems can occur:

  • Chronic stress involves repeated episodes of increased heart rate and blood pressure, leading to the formation of plaque in the cardiovascular system.
  • Increased adrenaline and nor-adrenaline contribute to higher blood cholestra levels, leading blood clots.
  • Repeated eps of FOFR lead to raised heart rate, which is linked with rapid build up of cholestral.

Taylor et al showed men react to stress with a FOFR wheras women react to stress with a tend and befriend response. 

Oxytocin is associated with reduced cortisol levels and a faster recovery to acute stress. Male hormones reduce the effects of oxytocin wheras female hormones amplify it.

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Fight or Flight Response (FOFR)

During evolution, the FOFR would have enabled us to be aware of physical dangers and predators, therefore to respond to these, we needed energy, fast. However, today stressors are more psychological than physical, therefore our FOFR is not needed and can be damaging.

When FOFR is repeatedly activated, 3 problems can occur:

  • Chronic stress involves repeated episodes of increased heart rate and blood pressure, leading to the formation of plaque in the cardiovascular system.
  • Increased adrenaline and nor-adrenaline contribute to higher blood cholestra levels, leading blood clots.
  • Repeated eps of FOFR lead to raised heart rate, which is linked with rapid build up of cholestral.

Taylor et al showed men react to stress with a FOFR wheras women react to stress with a tend and befriend response. 

Oxytocin is associated with reduced cortisol levels and a faster recovery to acute stress. Male hormones reduce the effects of oxytocin wheras female hormones amplify it.

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Stress and the Immune System

The immune system aims to protect the body from infectious agents such as bacteria. 

Kiecolt- Glaser 1984 carried out a study to see if the stress of important exams had an impact on the immune systems functioning. 

Method: Natural experiment with 75 students, where the independent variable is the amount of stress (1 month before vs. day of final exams) and the dependent variable is the blood samples measure of T and B lymphocyte. A questionairre also took place looking at variables, e.g. life events.

Findings: T lymphocyte is reduced in the high stress blood sample, and most reduced in students who had lonliness and life events.

Conclusion: Exam stress reduces immune functioning, leaving P's more vunerable to illness. Psychological variables such as life events also reduce the immune systems functioning

Evaluation: It was a natural experiment, and the stress of exams was going to happen anyway. Stress wasn't artificially induced unlike in previous studies. However, it was a biased sample as only medical students were tested, limiting generlisation of results.

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Supporting and conflicting research of stress and

Support:

  • Marucha et al '98- Punch biopsy in mouth of students 3 days before exam or summer hols, took 40% longer to heal in exam students
  • Kiecolt-Glaser et al '05- Found blisters healed more slowly in married couples who had conflicting discussions, compared to couples who had supportive discussions
  • Kiecolt-Glaser et al '95- 13 alzheimers carers compared to a control group of 13 had a punch biopsy on the arm, where the alzheimers carers injury took on average 9 days longer to heal than the control group. Shows long term stress impairs effectiveness of immune system to heal wounds.

Conflicting:

  • Evans et al '94- increase in antibody levels in acute stress conditions, but reduced activity in long term stress conditions. Therefore stress has 2 effects on the immune system, Acute stress= increased efficency, Chronic stress= decreased efficency.
  • Segerstom and Miller '04- Meta analysis showed short term stressors can boost the immune system, wheras long term stressors can supress the immune system. 
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Final supporting study of stress and the immune sy

Cohen 1993 investigated common stress with vunerability to the common cold. 394 participants completed a questionairre on the number of stressful life events they'd had in the past years, and their degree of stress and negative emotions.

3 things measured: life events, degree of stress and level of negative emotions, from this, a stress index was created.

When exposed to the common cold virus, 82% became infected. The number who infection developed into clinical colds was recorded. 

Results showed those with a high stress index score, were more likely to develop a cold. 

Cohen et al concluded life stress and negative emotions reduce the functioning of our immune system. 

Evaluation: Measured health outcome, showing a relationship between life stress and illness. Doesn't tell us which element of the stress index is most important. 

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Ethical issues concerning stress research

All clinical studies are covered by rigorous ethical considerations. P's must be in good health, should be given informed consent, should be constantly measured by a medical team, and the scientific value should be balanced against any psychological/physical distress.

Health is also effected by other factors other than stress, making it difficult to establish a relationship between stress and illness. 

Health is also often slow to change as well as being impractical and expensive. 

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Life changes and Stress

Holmes and Rahe were two heart doctors who nooticed their patients had had a range of life events in the past 12 months. They made the Social Reajustment Rating Scale (SRRS) by asking 4000 p's to rate a number of events in how much reajustment would be needed by the average person. The higher the number, the more adjustment needed.

Rahe et al 1970- wanted to see if the number of life events a person experienced was positively correlated with illness. 2700 men aboard 3 navy ships carried out the SRRS scale and a questionairre noting all past life events in the past 6 months. From there, an illness score was caluclated. Rahe et al found a positive correlation between the number of life events experienced and the illness score. It is important to note however, that any sort of change causes stress and psychic energy to be used. It was therefore conluded that there was a positive correlation between the number of life events and illness. 
Evaluation: No account of how individuals percieve events, e.g. some percieve christmas as a more stressful time than others. The SRRS uses both positive and negative events, suggesting any life event will have a negative effect, although this is untrue. Undesired, uncontrolled and unscheduled events will be the most harmful events.The research data shows a casual relationship and is correlational, but does not show a cause and effect. Finally, life changes are rare in a persons life, but daily hassles are frequent and  more significant. 

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