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Biological Psychology

Stress as a bodily response

  • Stress - An innate, defensive and adaptive reaction which responds to a stressor which puts pressure on the body. Stress levels depend on the person's perception of being able to cope
  • Acute stress - short-term
  • Chronic stress - long-term
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Biological Psychology

Stress as a bodily response

Short-term stress response

  • Neurotransmitters send electrical impulses around brain
  • Hypothalamus triggers activity in sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system
  • Stimulates adrenal medulla within adrenal glands which releases adrenaline and noradrenaline
  • Prepares body for 'fight or flight' - breathing rate increases, perspiration increases, muscles become tense, blood pressure increases
  • Parasympathetic branch of ANS works alongside sympathetic branch to ensure a balance of activity in the ANS
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Stress as a bodily response

Long-term stress response

  • A second system produces a countershock response which supplies the body with more fuel
  • Hypothalamus triggers pituitary gland
  • ACTH hormone released which stimulates adrenal cortex
  • Corticosteroids released to give energy
  • Suppression of immune system
  • This energy needed to replace energy used up in initial stress response
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Biological Psychology

Stress and physical illness

Selye - general adaptation system

  • Suggested that all humans and animals react to stressors through a three-stage physiological response
  • Alarm stage - Increased activity in SAM and HPA. Develops 6-48 hours after stress and includes loss of muscular tone, drop in body temperature and decrease in size of spleen and liver
  • Resistance stage - Body is adapting to demands of stressor. As this stage proceeds, the parasympathetic nervous system requires more careful use of the body's resources in order to cope. The system is being taken to its limits and is initially marked by an increase in size of adrenal glands and decrease in some pituitary activity, such as production of growth hormone
  • Exhaustion stage - Physiological systems used in previous stages become ineffective. Initial ANS symptoms of arousal re-appear - increased heart rate etc. Damaged adrenal cortex leads to collapse of immune system - illness
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Biological Psychology

Stress and physical illness

Strengths of GAS

  • Pioneering research into stress
  • Alerted medicine to importance of stress in disease

Weaknesses of GAS

  • Stressors produce different patterns of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol secretion
  • Criticised for use on animals
  • Individuals interpret stress in different ways and so physiological responses differ
  • Ignores individual differences - gender, personality, culture
  • Ignores psychological factors - differences in cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses
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Biological Psychology

Stress and physical illness - cardiovascular illnesses

  • Cobb and Rose - Hypertension:
    -
    P - Researchers analysed annual medical records of men working as air traffic controllers and airmen
    - F - Hypertension rates higher in air traffic controllers than airmen
  • Cole et al - Burnout and CHD
    -
    P - Carried out study on males who didn't suffer from CHD initially and followed up for 12 years
    - F - Burnout associated with doubling of the risk of CHD
  • Shuitemaker - Burnout and heart-attacks
    - P - Carried out study in adults aged between 41 and 66 years in Dutch village
    - F - Individuals suffering from burnout had 3 times the risk of heart-attacks
  • C - Correlational research - show link between variables. Natural experiments - high eco validity. However, can't establish cause and effect, individual differences not taken into account
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Biological Psychology

Stress and physical illness

Brady - stomach ulcers

  • P - Placed monkeys in 'restraining chairs' and conditioned them to press a lever. They were given shocks every 20 secs unless lever was pressed during same time period
  • F - Many monkeys died from ulcers caused by raised gastrointestinal hormone levels. They couldn't decide whether the ulcers were due to shocks or stress
  • P - One monkey, the 'executive' was responsible for controlling lever and receiving shocks whilst another received shocks but had no control over lever
  • F - After 23 days of 6 hours on, 6 hours off schedule, 'executive' died due to an ulcer. Stomach acidity was greatest in 'executive' during rest period concluding that it was stress rather than shocks which caused ulcer
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Biological Psychology

Stress and physical illness

  • Cohen - cold virus:
    - P - Gave pps nasal drops containing virus. Researchers determined stress levels by recording number of life changes an individual had recently experienced and the extent to which they felt 'out of control'. Both factors associated with increased stress
    - F - Pps with highest level of stress almost twice as likely to develop colds as those with lowest level
  • Riley - immunosuppression:
    - P - Mice placed on rapidly rotating turntable. Lymphocyte count measured over 5-hour period and found a decrease. Mice infected with cancer cells to measure tumour growth. One group had 10 mins of rotation per hour for 3 days whereas another group had no stress
    - F - Tumour growth stopped in no-stress group whereas stressed mice developed large tumours as a result of low lymphocyte levels
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Biological Psychology

Stress and physical illness

Kiecolt-Glaser et al - stress and wound healing

  • P - Independent measures design. Small wounds created on arms of women who cared for relatives with Alzheimer's disease. A control group also took part
  • F - Wound healing took longer in carer's than in control group
  • C - Doesn't take individual differences into account. Extraneous variables could be involved. Small sample so not really reliable and can't generalise to population
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Biological Psychology

Sources of stress - life changes

Holmes and Rahe

  • P - Studied patient's records and noted life changes that had occured before the person became ill
  • F - Patients were likely to have experienced life changes before becoming ill
  • P - Made list of 43 common life events and asked people to give each one a score to say how stressful it was. The numbers that made up each score were called life change units. They ranked events from most stressful to least stressful on SRRS
  • F - Positive correlation between likelihood of illness and score on SRRS - the more stress a person experienced, the more likely they were to get ill 
  • C - Correlational - can't establish cause and effects. Doesn't take individual differences into account. Several life changes within the SRRS could be related to each other so life changes could be both the cause and the effect of stress
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Biological Psychology

Sources of stress - life events

Rahe et al

  • P - In a correlational study, more than 2500 American Navy seamen given form of SRRS to complete before setting sail on military duty. They had to indicate all the events they had experienced over previous 6 months
  • F - Higher lcu scores found to be linked to a higher incidence of illness over the next 7 months
  • C - Correlational - can't establish cause and effect, extraneous variables. Can only generalise to American Navy seamen. Doesn't take individual differences into account. Some life events could be related to each other so could be both the cause and effect of stress
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Biological Psychology

Sources of stress - everyday life

Daily hassles

DeLongis et al

  • P - Pps completed 4 questionnaires once a month for a year - hassles scale, uplifts scale, life events questionnaire, health status questionnaire
  • F - Both frequency and intensity of hassles significantly correlated with impaired overall health status. However, daily uplifts had little effect on health. No relationship between life events and health during study
  • C - Sample was of people over 45 - can't generalise to younger people. Information on hassles and health only obtained once a month - reliance on pps memory so data may be unreliable. Twisk et al - found that people in their 20s who experienced increased numbers of daily hassles showed changes in health-related behaviour. Effects of daily hassles may depend on individual's experience of life events - daily hassles could cause life events
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Biological Psychology

Sources of stress - everyday life

Workplace stress

  • Johansson et al:
    - P - Compared two groups of workers in highly mechanised production industry. One group identified as high risk because what they did had following features: repetitive work, machine regulation of pace of work, physical constraints and requirement to attend continuously. Low risk group did work under more flexible conditions
    - F - High risk group produced higher levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline and had more psychosomatic illness than low risk group
    - C - Indicated that workplace stressors produce illness and stress. However, high risk group were exposed to several different stressors - not clear which one is most likely to cause stress
  • Spector et al:
    - P - Assessed perceived job control in workers
    - F - Low levels associated with frustration, anxiety, headaches
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Biological Psychology

Sources of stress - everyday life

Workplace stress

Marmot et al

  • P - Over 7000 civil service employees working in London surveyed. Information obtained about grade of employment, how much control they felt they had, how much support they felt they had etc
  • F - When medical histories followed up 5 years later, those on lower employment grades who felt less control or support over work more likely to have cardiovascular disorders. Pps on lowest grade of employment four times more likely to die of a heart attack than those with highest grade
  • C - Study only looked at office-type jobs - can't generalise to other jobs. Smoking common in those who developed illness so that could have caused heart problems. Extraneous variables could have an effect. Correlational - can't establish cause and effect. Data obtained by questionnaires - social desirability bias
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Biological Psychology

Sources of stress - everyday life

Workplace stress - effort-reward imbalance

Smith et al

  • F - Effort-reward imbalance associated with increased symptoms of cardiovascular disease - workers experienced more anger than those not experiencing effort-reward imbalance

Kuper et al

  • P - Studied effort-reward imbalance among over 10,000 civil servants who were followed up for an average of 11 years
  • F - Effort-reward imbalance associated with heart-attacks, poor physical functioning, poor mental functioning

 

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Biological Psychology

Stress - individual Differences

  • Type A personality - competitive, ambitious
  • Type B personality - relaxed, easy-going

Friedman and Rosenman - Type A personality and illness

  • P - 39 to 59 year old American males assessed for personality characteristics using interviews and observation. At the start, none of them had CHD
  • F - 8 years later some people developed CHD. 70% of these classed as type A. These results found even when extraneous variables were taken into account
  • C - Simplistic - only 2 personality types. Personality type could be cause and effect of stress. Study done on middle-aged male Americans - can't generalise to others. Interviews used - social desirability bias. Other personalities developed later - C and D
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Biological Psychology

Stress - individual differences

Kobasa - hardiness

  • Hardy individuals have following characteristics:
    - Commitment - involved in what they do and have direction life. Find meaning in work and personal relationships
    - Challenge - view stressful situations as a challenge rather than threat
    - Control - stronger sense of personal control. Feel they can influence events in their lives
  • Hardy individuals experience less stress than others so are less likely to suffer from physical illness
  • They are also able to cope better than non-hardy ones as level of stress increases - more resistant to adverse effects of stress
  • Gentry and Kobasa - assumptions:
    - Hardy individuals use more problem-focused coping and less emotion-focused coping than non-hardy ones - less stress experienced
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Biological Psychology

Stress - individual differences

Crowley et al - hardiness

  • P - Studied effects of hardiness on adjustment amoung individuals who had lost job or whose youngest child had left home. These life events differed in terms of predictability
  • F - Job loss more stressful. However, there were beneficial effects of hardiness on positive emotions and life satisfaction with respect to both life events - hardy people cope better than non-hardy ones with predictable and non-predictable life events
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Biological Psychology

Stress management

  • Lazarus et al:
    - Problem-focused coping - efforts to improve stressful situation by changing things. For example, seeking information about what to do
    - Emotion-focused coping - refers to thoughts or actions whose goal is to relieve the emotional impact of stress. These strategies don't solve the stressful situation, but make the person feel better
  • Zakowski et al:
    - Identified two theoretical positions concerning effectiveness of problem-focused and emotion-focused coping
    - Main-effects hypothesis - p-f coping more effective
    - Goodness-of-fit hypothesis - preferable to use p-f coping when stressor is controllable and e-f coping when stressor is uncontrollable - stress levels lower when there is a good fit between stressor and coping strategy
  • Wu et al - positive and negative effects of p-f coping
    - F - doctors who accepted responsibility for own mistakes made constructive changes to work habits. However, they had more distress
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Biological Psychology

Stress management

Folkman - positive effects of p-f coping

  • P - Pps indicated coping strategies they used to handle stressful events and rated extent to which outcome had been satisfactory
  • F - P-f coping associated with satisfactory outcomes and e-f coping associated with unsatisfactory outcomes

Collins et al - positive effects of e-f coping

  • P - Studied people living close to Three Mile Island shortly after a nucleur incident
  • F - Those using p-f coping were more distressed than those using e-f coping
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Biological Psychology

Stress management - psychological approach

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Meichenbaum - stress inoculation training

  • Assessment - Therapist discusses nature of problem with individual and asks person's views on how to eliminate it
  • Stress reduction techniques - Individual learns techniques for reducing stress such as relaxation and self-instruction by using coping self-statements - cognitive therapy
  • Application and follow-through - Individual imagines using stress reduction techniques learned in second stage in difficult situations and/or engages in role play of situations with therapist. After that he/she starts to use techniques in real-life situations - changing behaviour
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Biological Psychology

Stress management - psychological approach

  • Stress inoculation training strengths
    -
    A form of CBT - regarded as being as effective as any other form of therapy
    - Training proved effective in reducing stress levels
    - Training shown to reduce stress whether stress is assessed by self-report measures or by cortisol responses
    - Able to manage stress before stress levels become so high that individual develops a mental disorder
  • Stress inoculation training weaknesses
    - Several components - can't tell which is responsible for reducing stress
    - Effects of training compared to no training or treatment - too easy for training to appear successful
    - Training has been less effective than other forms of treatment

 

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Biological Psychology

Stress management - psychological approach

Maddi - hardiness training

  • Focusing - learn to recognise symptoms of stress
  • Reliving stressful encounters - learn to analyse stressful situations to better understand possible coping strategies
  • Self-improvement - take on challenges that can be coped with and build confidence, thereby gaining greater sense of control

Strengths:
- Evidence that it is successful - Maddi et al - recorded increase in hardiness and decrease in illness of managers
Weaknesses:
- Time consuming and requires commitment to the training
- Concepts may be too complex - could be argued that it's just as effective to relax and think positively

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Biological Psychology

Stress management - physiological approach

Drugs - on individual differences revision cards

Biofeedback

  • Person attached to machine that moniters and gives feedback on internal physical symptoms like heart rate, blood pressure or muscle tension
  • Taught how to control symptoms through variety of symptoms including muscle relaxation - muscle groups tensed and relaxed in turn until body is relaxed. This teaches people to notice when body is becoming tense. Other techniques include meditation or breathing control exercises
  • Feeling of relaxation acts like a reward and encourages person to repeat this as an involuntary activity
  • Person learns to use techniques in real-life situations
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Biological Psychology

Stress management - physiological approach

Biofeedback strengths

  • Evidence that it helped teenagers and children with stress-related disorders to gain control over symptoms of migraines. They also showed an increase in enthusiasm and a more positive attitude
  • Method is voluntary and not invasive

Biofeedback weaknesses

  • Aims to reduce symtoms but doesn't necessarily treat the disorder
  • Specialist equipment and expert supervision needed - some argue biofeedback could be gained from other relaxation techniques so this expense is unnecessary
  • Time consuming/expensive
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