• Created by: hbrane
  • Created on: 01-05-15 14:22

Body's response to stress:

Acute Stress:

  • Sympathomedullary pathway.
  • The hypothalamus activates the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
  • This stimulates the adrenal medulla to release adrenaline and noradrenaline.
  • This causes both heart rate and blood pressure to rise.
  • This is also known as the fight or flight response.

Chronic Stress:

  • Pituitary-adrenal system.
  • The hypothalamus activates the pituitary gland to secrete ACTH hormone.
  • This stimulates the adrenal cortex to release cortisol.
  • This suppresses the immune system and facilitates the conversion of fat and protein into energy.
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Effects of stress on immune system:

  • Blood pressure and heart rate increase to get blood quickly to areas of the body where it's needed for activity.
  • Digestion decreases so that blood can be directed to the brain and muscles.
  • Muscles become more tense so that the body is physically responsive.
  • Perspiration increases os that the body can cool down and burn more energy.
  • Breathing rate increases so that more oxygen can be sent to the muscles.


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Effects of stress on the immune system:

Kiecolt-Glaser et al (1995):

  • Blood smaples taken from medical sutdents one month before exams and during exams.
  • T cell activity was measured in the blood samples.
  • Questionnaires were given to the students to assess psychological variables, such as traumatic events and loneliness.
  • T cell activity was reduced in the sample taken during exams and in those experiencing psychological variables.
  • This proves that exam stress and psychologicl variables effect the immune system.

Cohen et al (1993):

  • Got participants to fill out a questionnaire that measured their stress index.
  • Participants were then exposed to a cold virus.
  • Participants with a high stress index were more likely to develop the cold and took longer to recover from it than those with a low stress index.
  • This proves that high stress levels do have an affect on the immune system.
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Life Changes:

Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS):

  • Holmes and Rahe.
    • Made a list of 43 common life events. 
    • Had people rate how stressful each one was.
    • Ranked events from most stressful to least stressful.
  • Problems with the SRRS:
    • Does not seperate +ve and -ve life events.
      • Weddings can be stressful but have a positive outcome.
      • Death of a spouse is also very stressful but has a negative outcome.
    • Daily hassles are not considered.


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Life Changes:

Rahe et al (1970):

  • 2500 American sailors took the SRRS to asses the number of life events that occured over the last six months.
  • Detailed records of the sailor's health were documented over their next six months of duty.
  • The SRRS scores were correlated with illness records.
  • Positive correlation of +0.118.
  • Participants that were experiencing life changes had a increased change of getting ill.
  • However, the correlation is small, so life events must only be one factor that is causing the sailors to become ill.
  • Can't assume a casual relationship.
  • Can't generalise the results - not representative of the population.
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Daily Hassles:


  • Nurses kept diaries recording hassles and uplifts for one month.
  • Hassles - increase job strain and decrease job performance.
  • Uplifts - increase job performance.


  • Relationship between daily hassles and mental health.
  • Studied the transition from school to university.
  • Students completed a hassles questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory.
  • 41% of the students suffered depressive symptoms.
  • +ve correlation between hassles scale and depressive symptoms.
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Daily Hassles:

Kanner et al (1981):

  • 100 adults asked to complete hassles questionnaire each month.
  • Asked to rate each hassle to show how severe it has been for them.
  • Repeated for 9 months.
  • Those with high scores were more likely to have physical and psychological health problems.
  • Scores on an uplift scale were negatively correlated to health.
    • Uplifts may reduce stress or protect us from it.
  • Daily hassles are positively correlated to stress and health, with a stronger correlation than that found with the SRRS.
  • Uplifts were negatively correlated with stress.
  • Difficult to establish a cause or effect relationship between the variables.
  • Questionnaires meant that the participants were unable to explain why they found a situation stressful.
  • Rely's on P's to be honest and for their recall to be accurate.
    • May not want to admit finding something stressful.
  • People may measure stress differently.
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Workplace Stress:

Stress in workplace caused by:

  • Relationships at work.
    • Might feel undervalued.
  • Work pressures.
    • Having a large workload with strict deadlines.
    • Johansson et al (1978).
  • The physical environment.
    • Noisy, overcrowded, temperature.
    • Health risks, i.e. factory workers.
    • Unsociable hours.
  • Stresses linked to our role.
    • Job security.
  • Lack of control.
    • May not have much influence over the type and amount of work we do,
    • " --------------------------------------" where we work.
    • " --------------------------------------" when we work.
    • Marmot et al (1997).
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Workplace Stress:

Marmot et al (1997):

  • 7000 civil service employees working in London.
  • Information obtained about their grade of employment, how much control they felt the had, how much support they felt they had, etc.
  • Medical histories followed up 5 years later.
  • P's on lower employment grades who felt less control and support over their work were found to be more likely to have cardiovascular disorders.
  • P's on the lowest grade of employment were four times more likely to die of a heart attack than those on the highest grade.
  • Lack of control can influence work stress and the development of illness.
  • Only looked at 'white collar' workers - results can't be generalised to over jobs.
  • Other factors, e.g. smoking and diet, may have had a part in the development of illness.
  • Cause or effect relationship?
  • Questionnaires may allow P's to be more honest if anonymous but they may not want to admit some information incase it puts their job at risk.
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Workplace Stress:

Johansson et al (1978):

  • Participants consisted of:
    • 14 'finishers' in a Swedish sawmill - high-risk job, repetitive, isolated, high pressure.
    • 10 cleaners (control group) - low-risk job, social, varied work.
  • Adrenaline/noradrenalin were measured in the participant's urine on work days and rest days.
  • Record kept of stress-related illnes and absenteeism.
  • Finishers secreted more hormones on workdays than the cleaners.
  • Finishers had higher stress-related illness days and absenteeism.
  • Higher work pressure and lack of social contact can cause stress and illness.
  • Field experiment - high ecological validity.
  • Doesn't take personality factors into account - some individuals may be more prone to stress.
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Individual Differences:

Type A Personality:

  • Time pressure:
    • Working against the clock.
    • Doing several things at once.
    • Irritation and imatience with others.
    • Unhappy doing nothing.
  • Competitive:
    • Always plays to win at games and at work.
    • Achievement measured as material productivity.
  • Anger:
    • Self-critical.
    • Hostile to the outside world.
    • Anger often directed inwards.
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Individual Differences:

Friedman and Rosenman (1974):

  • 3200 Californian men aged 39-59.
  • Structured interview was carried out and the men were categorised into Type A, Type X and Type B personalities.
  • Sample was followed for 8.5 years, assessing their lifestyle and health.
  • 70% of the 257 men that developed coronary heart disease (CHD) were Type A personalities.
  • Linked to lifestyle factors - smoking, obesity, etc...
  • Type A behaviour increases the chances of CHD.
  • Programs to reduce Type A behaviour should help reduce their chances of developing CHD.
  • Andocentric data; results only apply to men and can't be generalised to women.
  • Ethnocentric data; resuts only apply to Californian men and ignore other classes and cultures.
  • Rather simplistic, as it only studies three personality types.
  • Cause or effect relationship?
    • Did those characteristics cause the stress or did the stress cause the person to develop those characteristics?
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Individual Differences:

Hardy Personality:

  • High level of commitment.
    • They will work hard at relationships, jobs, etc.
  • View change positively, seeing it as an opportunity for challenge.
    • They see life's obstacles as challenges to overcome.
  • They have a strong feeling of control over their life and what happes to them.
    • Known as having internal locus of control and are more likely exhibit independent behaviour.

Non-Hardy Personality:

  • View life experiences in a negative way and feel that they're unable to cope with situations.
  • They feel like external agencies have control over what happens to them and that it isn't worth trying to become more powerful.
  • They give up easily and don't see any value in trying to change what's happening around them.
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Individual Differences:

Hardiness Training:

  • Focusing - taught to recognise the sources of stress in their lives and physiological signs of stress (heart rate).
  • Reliving stress encounters - encouraged to analyse how they have responded to stressful encounters in the past and whether they were effective or not.
  • Self-improvement - these insights can be used to move forward and learn new techniques.

Kobasa et al (1985):

  • Studied hardy personality in male white-collar workers.
  • People with high scores on hardiness are less likely to suffer from stress-related illness.
  • Androcentric; findings cannot be generalised to women.
  • Results can't be generalised to different classes - only white-collar workers.
  • Components of personality have never really been clearly defined.
    • Control may be an important part of commitment and challenge but Kobasa is viewing it seperately.
      • Looking at control as a protection against stress rather than a 'full personality'.
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Stress Management - Biological Approach:


  • Aim is to target the stress response iteself.
  • They slow down the activity of the central nervous system (CNS).
    • E.g. Benzodiazepines (BZs) - valium.
    • Has a direct effect on the brain.
    • Increases the body's reaction to neurotransmitter GABA.
      • GABA is the body's own natural anxiety-relieving chemical.
      • Slows down the activity of neurones and makes us feel relaxed.
  • They reduce the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
    • SNS increases heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels.
      • High cortisol levels can make our immune system weak and cause heart disease.
    • E.g. Beta-blockers - librium.
      • Directly reduces activity of SNS pathways.
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Stress Management - Biological Approach:

Drugs Evaluation:

Speed and effectiveness - Quick at reducing dangerous symptoms, i.e. high blood pressure.

Availability - Relatively easy to prescribe and use.

Dependancy - People can get addicted easily and begin to rely on drugs.

Only targets symptoms - Only treats symptoms and only when drugs are being taken.

Side effects - dizziness, blurred vision; withdrawl symptoms: increased anxiety, seizures, tremors and headaches.

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Stress Management - Biological Approach:


  • Measured via electrodes on the skin leading to a hand-held monitor.
  • Gives people information about internal physical processes e.g. muscle tension.
  • Gives people more control over these internal processes and the ability to alter them.
  • Training takes place in a non-stressful environment, which the person is then encouraged to use in real-life situations.
  • Person is attached to the machine that monitors and gives feedback on internal physical processes, such as heart rate, blood pressure or muscle tension.
  • Taught how to control these symptoms.
    • Muscle relaxation - muscles are tensed and relaxed until the whole body is relaxed. This way people notice when their body is becoming tense.
    • Meditation.
    • Breathing control exercises.
  • Feeling of relaxation acts like a reward and encourages the person to repeat this as an involuntary activity.
  • The person learns to use these techniques in real-life situations.
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Stress Management - Biological Approach:

Biofeedback Evaluation:

  • Effective.
    • Attanasio et al (1985) - found that it helped teenagers and children with gain control over the symptoms of a migraine headache.
      • They also showed an increase in enthusiasm and a more positive attitude.
    • Has more long-lasting benefits.
  • No side effects.
    • Only relaxation.
  • Voluntary; not invasive.
  • Role of relaxation.
    • Often no more effective than relaxation alone.
  • Expensive equipment and time consuming.
    • Equipment isn't needed, so can be an unnecessary expense.
  • Motivation and commitment is needed in order to make the treatment successful..
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Stress Management - Psychological Approach:

Stress Inoculation:

  • Meichenbaum (1993).
  • Injects you with stress and then teaches you coping mechanisms.
  • Gets the person used to being under stress/ more resilient with stress.
  • Conceptualisation - identify fears and concerns with the help of a therapist.
  • Skill training and rehearsal - train to develop skills like positive thinking and relaxation in order to improve self-confidence.
  • Real-life application - client uses training in real-life situations; contact is kept with therapist.


  • Targets source of stress rather than the symptoms.
  • Combines both problem-focused and emotion-focused coping techniques.
  • Effective - long-lasting.
  • Client has to be determind and willing to commit to the technique.
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Stress Management - Psychological Approach:

Hardiness Training:

Kobasa proposes three ways in which hardiness can be increased:

  • Focusing - learn to recognise signs of stress.
  • Reliving stressful encounters - analyse stressful situations, so you can understand possible coping strategies.
  • Self-improvement - take on challenges that can be coped with and build confidence; control is gained.
  • Participants in Kobasa's study only included white, middle class businessmen.
    • Androcentric; results cannot be applied to women.
    • Ethnocentric; results cannot be applied to other cultures or classes.
  • Can be easily applied to real life situations.
    • Olympic swimmers have used this technique in order to control aspects of their lives that could disrupt their training.
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