Automatic Nervous System (ANS) is divided into the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic branch. SNS arouses the animal for fight or flight. Parasympathetic branch returns animal to state of relaxation. The Sympathetic Adrenal Medullary (SAM) and the SNS make up the Sympathomedullary Pathway

Neurones from the SNS travel to every organ and gland to prepare the body for rapid response. These include increased heart rate, blood pressure and increased pupil size. Noradrenaline is the neurotransmitter released by the SNS to activate the internal body organs. The SAM releases adrenaline into the bloodstream where it is transported throughout the body to prepare the animal for fight or flight. The SAM is regulated by the SNS and the adrenal medulla.

The adrenal gland is made up of the adrenal medulla and the adrenal cortex. The neurones travel to the medulla to release adrenaline into the blood stream. Adrenaline can boost the supply of oxygen and supress digestion. The parasympathetic branch relaxes the animal again once the stressor has passed. The parasympathetic branch slows down the heartbeat and reduces blood pressure. Digestion also begins again.

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Pituitary-Adrenal System or Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA) controls the level of cortisol and other stress related hormones. The activation of the HPA is less easy to achieve compared to the SAM. When stressors are perceived a message is sent to the hypothalamus. It is the control system for most of the body’s hormonal systems. CRF is released into the bloodstream in response to the stressor. CRF arrives at the pituitary gland and causes it to release ACTH. This hormone is transported in the bloodstream to the adrenal cortex

Cortisol is released by the adrenal cortex. It can have both positive and negative side effects such as quick burst of energy and high blood pressure. Prolonged release of ACTH causes the adrenal cortex to increase in size to cope with increased cortisol production. Long term ACTH deficiency causes it to shrink. It takes about 20 minutes for the process to be complete. Cortisol levels rise sharply after the initial perception of an acute stressor. It’s also efficient at regulating itself. Both the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland have special receptors that monitor the levels of cortisol.

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Kiecolt-Glaser - natural experiment investigating whether stress of short term stressors had an effect of the immune system. Blood samples were taken a month before and during the exams. The immune system functioning was assessed by measuring the NK Cell activity in the blood samples. The participants also completed a questionnaire to measure other life stressors that they were experiencing. Found that NK Cell activity was significantly reduced in the second blood sample compared to the first blood sample. This could suggest that short term stressors reduce the immune system. Also found that those who reported the highest levels of loneliness had the lowest NK Cell activity.


Natural experiment means high ecological validity


Cause and effect cannot be established, ethnocentric.


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Williams conducted a study to see if anger and heart disease were linked. 13,000 people completed a 10 question anger scale. Questions included if they were hot headed, if they felt like hitting someone when they got angry and whether or not they got angry when they did not get recognition for good work. None of the participants had suffered from heart disease before the study. Six years later, the health of the participants were checked and it was found that 256 participanrts had suffered from heart attacks. Those who scored highest on the anger scales more 2.5 times more likely to have a heart attack than those with lower anger ratings. This suggests that anger may lead to cardiovascular disorders.


High number of particpants which increases the reliability


Questionnaire is self report. Participants want to look socially desireable.

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Russek looked at heart disease in medical professionals. One group of doctors was designated as high stress (GP's) while others were classed as low stress (dermatologists). Russek found heart disease was greatest among GP's (11.9%) and lowest in dermatologists (3.2%)

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Brown and Harris found that women who suffered from high levels of chronic stress were more likely to develop depression. Working class women were more prone to depression than middle-class women as they had to leave home and go to work leaving their children in the care of others. 

Melchoir carried out a survey over a period of one year among 1000 people in New Zealand. Found that 15% of those in high stress jobs suffered a first episode of clinical depression or anxiety.  Women  were more affected than men.

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Holmes and Rahe developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) based on 43 life events from 5000 patient records. 400 participants were asked to score each event on how much readjustment would be needed by the average person. The participants were asked to provide a numerical figure for the readjustment taking marriage as an base line of 50. If an event took longer to to readjust to than marriage, then they were told to give the event a higher number than 50. Scores were totalled and averaged to produce life change units (LCUs) for each event.

Rahe et al used this technique to test Holmes and Rahes hypothesis that the number of life evnts a person would experinced would be positivley correlated with illness. A military version pf the SRRS (the SRE) was given to all the men aboard three US Navy ships. A total of over 2700 men filled in the questionnaire just before the tour of duty, noting all the life events experineced over the previous six months. An illness score was also calculated.

He found a positive correlation between LCU score and illness score of 0.118. Those who scored low SRE scores also had low levels of illness while at sea. Those who scored high on SRE experineced high levels of illness.

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Field experiment means high ecological validity as results more representitive of real life.


All participants androcentric and ethnocentric so cannot be generalised beyond this population.

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Bouteyre - investigated the relationship between daily hassles and and the mental health of students during the inital transition period from school to university. First year psychology students at a french university completed the hassles part of the HSUP and the Beck Depression Inventory as a measure of any sypmtoms of depression. Results showed that 41% of the students studied showed depressive symptoms and the was a positive correlation between scores on the hassle scale and incidence of depressive symptoms.

Gervais asked nurses to keep diaries for a month recording all the hassles and uplifts they had experienced while at work. They were also asked to rate their own performance over the same period. At the end of the month, it was clear that daily hassles were found to increase job strain  and decrease job performance. Nurses felt that some uplifts counteracted the negative effects.

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Johansson looked at the effects of performing repetitive jobs that require continuous attention and some responsibility. Sawyers in a Swedish Sawmillhave a stressful task as their jobs are reptitive and have a sense of responsibility for the whole company.The high risk group were found to have higher illness rates and higher levels of adrenaline in their urine than the low risk group. The high risk group also had higher levels of stress hormones on work days than rest days.

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Type A - Competitve, Achievment striving, Impatient, Hostile, Agressive

Type B - Patient, Relaxed, Easy Going

Friedman and Rosenman - Western Collaberative Group Study. 3000 men ageed 39-59 were examined for signs of CHD. Those who didnt have CHD were used in the study. Their personalities were assessed by interview. The interview included questions about how they respond to everyday pressures. The interview was conducted in a provocative manner to try to elicit Type A behaviour. After 8.5 years, twice as many Type A participants had died from CHD's than Type B. Over 12% suffered hear attacks compared to 6% of Type B.

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Conceptualisation phase: The therapist and client establish a relationship, and the client is educated about the nature and impact of stress. E.g. the client is asked to see threats and a problem to be solved, which enables the client to think differently about their problem.

Skills acquistion phase: Coping skills which are tailored to the client and their problems are taught which are then praticed in the clinic and then gradually rehearsed in real life. These include positive thinking, relaxation, social skills, using social support systems and time managment. Skills taught are both cognitive and behavioural as they encourage the client to think and learn in different ways.

Application phase: Clients are given an opportunity to apply the new learned coping skills in different situations, becoming more stressful. Various techniques such as imagery, modelling, and role playing may also be used. Clients may also be asked to help train others. Booster sessions are offered later on.

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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.

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