Covering the body's biological reaction to stress, key studies and treatments

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Physical Symptoms of Stress

  • Lack of appetite
  • Craving for food when under pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Nail biting
  • Nervous twitches
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Frequent heartburn or indigestion
  • Tendency to sweat for no good reason
  • Nausea
  • Breathless with exertion
  • Fainting spells
  • Frequent crying or desire to cry
  • Impotency or frigidity
  • Inability to sit still without fidgeting
  • High blood pressure
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Mental Symptoms of Stress

Mental Symptoms:

  • Constant irritability with people
  • Feeling unable to cope
  • Difficulty in making decision
  • Awareness of suppressed anger
  • Lack of interest in life
  • A feeling of being a failure
  • A feeling of being bad or self-hatred
  • A feeling of ugliness
  • Inability to show true feelings
  • Loss of sense of humour
  • Feeling of neglect
  • Dread of the future
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • The inability to finish one task before rushing on to the next
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First response (startle response) is immediate and operates within 30 seconds of a threat. This is the Sympathetic Adrenal Medullary (SAM) response.


Sympathetic Adrenal Medullary -> Adrenal Medula -> Releases Adrenaline


  • Pupils dilate
  • Breathing rate increases
  • Heart pumps harder and faster
  • Blood supply to the legs increase
  • Shuts of your digestive and reproductive systems
  • Adrenaline is released from the adrenal glands on the kidney
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If the stress is prolonged then the "back-up system" responds and this is the Hypothalmic Pituitary Adrenal Access (HPA) response.


Hypothalmia Pituitary Adrenal Access -> Pituitary gland (releases Cortico Releasing Factor) -> Adreno Cortico Trophic Hormone ->Releases Cortisol


  • Pupils contract
  • Slows heart beat
  • Constricts bronchi
  • Builds up energy for future use
  • Stumulates activity in the digestive/reproductive systems
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Effects of stress

Seyle's GAS (General Adaptation Syndrome) Model:

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Effects of stress

Immune system

Night - body produces TH1 cells
Day - body produces TH2 cells

  • With the stress response, one loses sleep therefore producing less TH1 cells and comprising one's immune system
  • Low TH1 cells mean that abnormal body cells are not recognised and you are more susceptible to cancer
  • TH2 cells link to inflamory responses so with a lack of cells, one will suffer from spots, IBS, constipation and infection cannot be fought as well
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Segerstrom and Miller

  • Meta analysis of 293 studies over 30 years
  • In the short-term your immune system can be benefited
  • Long-term chronic stress leads to the suppression of the immune system, the most chronic stressors associated with the global supression

Cohen and the cold

  • 392 healthy participants
  • Gave participants nasal drops with 5 common cold ciruses
  • After two weeks 1/3 had a cold
  • Those who had contracted a cold scored highest on the physicological stress scoring system
  • Direct correlation between high stress levels and susceptability to a cold
  • Lab setting - high control
  • Took individual differences into account (weight, smoking etc)
  • Unethical giving someone a cold
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Further studies

Kiecolt and Glaser

  • Used 75 medical students (notoriously the most hard worked students)
  • Took blood samples from them a month before/during their final exams
  • White blood cells were considerably lower in the sample from during their exams

Carer study

  • Carers (average 8 years care of Alzheimer's patients) scored much higher than controls on a stress questionnaire
  • A small wound was created on the forearm
  • The average time taken for the wound to heal was 48 days - the control group was 39 days
  • Caregivers were on medication and there was a small sample size
  • Unethical? Though the carers would know how to keep said wound clean
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Personality type

Type A

  • Impatient
  • Competitive
  • Hostile cynicism
  • Frustration
  • Aggression
  • Cortisol build up from being more stressed than Type B

Type B

  • Patient
  • Cooperative
  • Easygoing
  • Laidback

N.B: Type C is Type A repressed (more likely to get cancer from lack of TH1 cells as explained earlier) and Type D is Distressed.

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Type A

A Type A personality is dangerous and can lead to:

  • Hypertension
  • Coronary Heart Disease (narrowing of the Coronary Arteries from high blood pressure from extra Cortisol)
  • Stroke (again, disruption of blood flow to the brain from narrowing blood vessels from Cortisol)
  • Stress from a Type A personality also leads to increased glucose levels leading to clumps blocking the artery
  • Stressed individuals are also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours e.g. smoking, drinking, drug taking and binging.
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Studies into Type A Personality


  • 13,000 healthy people completed a 10 question anger scale
  • Six years later 256 had experienced heart attacks
  • Those who had scored highest on the anger scale were over 2.5 x more likely to have a heart attack

Friedman and Roseman:

  • 3524 Calfornian men aged 39 - 59 (all free from CHD)
  • After 8.5 years, 7% had some signs of CHD and 2/3 of those men were Type A and no overly-strong correlation - only 7%

Men and heart attacks

  • 500 men with 13.2% annually at risk of a heart attack
  • Given sounselling designed to reduce Type A behaviour (and hostility)
  • Reduced to 7.2% annually at risk of further heart attacks
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Social Readjustment Rating Scale

Holmes and Raye created the Social Readjustment Rating Scale giving each Life Event a "mean value" of Life Change Unit (LCU) showing how stressing it will be on the person experiencing it e.g. Death of a spouse has a LCU of 100.

Kannet et al also created a similar scale of "The Hassles of Middle-aged Adults." It was a simple rating of concerns of adults on a scale of 1 - 10, with the most distressing thought for an adult being number 1 (Concerns about weight.)

Rahe did a quesstionnaire of life events experience over the previous six months with the illness score calculated on the 7 month tour of duty of Navy soliders and found that a LCU of 118 was given. There was no strong correlation but the number was significant.

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Job stress

Johansson et al

  • Researcher identified a high-risk group of 14 finishers in a Swedish sawmill
  • The job was machine-paced, isolated, very repetitive yet highly skilly
  • They were compared with a low-risk group of 10 cleaners whose work was more varied
  • The high-risk group secreted more stress hromones on work days than on rest days and higher levels than the control group

Marmot et al

  • Job strain model - 7372 civil servants (from London)
  • High workload creating greater job demands
  • Low job control over deadlines and procedures
  • Higher grade employees would experience a high world load whereas lower grade exployees would experience low job control
  • No link between high workload and stress-related illness in the higher grades
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Coping with stress

(If you are too stressed then you cannot solve anything at all)

Problem focussed coping:
If the problem cannot be solved then this is a limitation

  • Thoughts or action acting directly on a stressful situation
  • Seeking information
  • Emotional regulation
  • Direct action
  • Planning
  • Decision making

Emotional focused:
N.B: Doesn't solve problem direction but a change of emotion may help solve problem.

  • Talking to a friend
  • Support seeking
  • Distraction
  • Doesn't tackle the problem itself
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Hardy personality


  • The Hardy Personality - to see situations as challenges
  • Control - in stresssful situations you need control
  • Commitment - problem focused
  • See stress as a challenge - eustress
  • Social support - women (though a social network can also cause stress)
  • Exercise - gender approach

The Transactional Model of Stress - Cox/EEA - Environmental enolutionary approach

Primary appraisal: Is it a threat? Is it a challenge?
If it is a challenge/threat then move on to the secondary appraisal.
Secondary appraisal: Can I cope? Do I have the resources?
If you do not have the resources then you will feel negative stress
If you do then it becomes eustress (positive stress)

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Klag and Bradley

  • Assessed hardiness, neuroticism, stress, symptoms of illness and approach/aviodance coping
  • Male and female staff at an Austrailian University
  • Commitment and control correlate negatively with stress and illness
  • Neuroticism was the most significant thing
  • Neuroticiam may be the cause as commitment, challenge and control were non-significant if neuroticism was controlled
  • Adverse effects of stress on health are significantly less on hardy men and it acts as a buffer
  • Benefits of hardiness are not linked to emotion/problem focussed coping
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Stress and drugs

 Beta blockers:

  • Contain Beta Adrenergic blocking drugs
  • Fills the adrenaline receptor so it cannot affect the heart during the stress response
  • Good for people with heart disease
  • Can up the effects of obesity
  • Can cause sleep disturbance and muscle fatigue


  • Treats Generalised Anxiety Disoder
  • Shows no signs of addiction or dependancy
  • Different from Benzodiazipines
  • Acts against seritonin
  • Headaches
  • Better tolerated
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Stress and drugs


  • "Sleeping tablets"
  • Easily addictive
  • Serious side effects - cognitive impairment
  • Tolerance can be built up
  • Depresses CNS (physical effects)


  • Minor tranquilisers
  • Increase the action of the neurotrnasmitter
  • Mimcs the body's stress relievers
  • Effective with the greater majority of people
  • Rapid onset of action and can reduce stress quickly and are generally well tolerated for a short period of time
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Stress and drugs

SSRI - Selective Seritonon Reuptake Inhibitor

  • Used effectively to treat depression - effective in the exhaustion phase
  • Most common
  • Leaves seritonin in the synaptic gaps
  • 80% effective against depression

SIT - Stress Inoculation therapy

  • Adv:
    Review of past situations, realistic understanding of demands
    Sources stress and works on coping strategies
    Real life application
  • Disadv:
    Requires time and commitment
    Changing behaviour will always be difficult
    Stress and anxiety levels (through personality) are difficult to change
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Thannnnnk you Catrin!! :D **

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