Biological stress managment techniques
Stress can produce a biological change in the body which can lead to stress related illness and disorders. These techniques try to alleviate the physiological symptoms of stress in an attempt to make people feel better.
The nervous system consists of many nerve cells called neurones. They send electrical messages along their length and communicate with each other using chemicals called neurotransmitters. This chemical transmission of messages means that the introduction of other chemicals can alter brain function. Drug molecules can enter the gaps between neurones (synapse) and affect the activity of the neurone. This means drugs can artifically influence emotions, cognitions and behaviour.
SSRIs - One important group of drugs are called SSRI's and are used for patients with depression. Many people who suffer from depression have low levels of the neurontransmitter Serotonin. Drug molecules enter the synapse and can block the gates on the presynaptic neurone. Meaning Serotonin is unable to be re-taken and recycled so more stays in the synapse, alleviating the patients depressed mood.
Anti-anxiety drugs - An example is benzodiazepines (BZ's), they increase the action on the neuronetransmitter GABA. GABA is the body's own natural anxiety relieving chemical. This slows down the activity of the neurones and makes us feel relaxed.
Beta-Blockers - They reduce the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for increasing heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol. Beta-blockers reduce all of these unpleasant symptoms.
Effectivness of treating phobias - KAHN, 250 patients, 8 weeks, superior to a placebo, effective at reducing symptoms of stress related disorders.
Reliable treatment of stress illnesses - TRIVEDI, 3000 outpatients, 14 weeks, 47% score halved.
Only treat symptoms, may return, other therapies focus on root cause of illness.
Can develop an addiction, can cause more of a problem, side effects.
This technique uses recording of the body's physiological activity such as heart rate, blood pressure or neck tenstion. Recording are usually measured by electrodes on the skin and monitored by a hand held devide. The patient is encouraged to lower the physiological activity by various strategies such as relaxation or meditation. The aim is to find a strategy that reduces the arousal consistently, the learning is then transferred to real world situations.
Empricial evidence - BRANDY, college students with tension headaches, 7 x 50 min sessions, reduced headaches, can help alleviate the symptoms of stress.
Appropriate treatment - ATTANASIO, works well with children, treats it as a game, more optimistic about its results than adults, effective in all ages.
Skills for life, can be used anywhere once skills have been mastered, ensure the patient never relapses.
Time consuming and expensive, a lot of practise, patience and commitment from patient, may not be appropriate for short term stress.