Stress is defined as an imbalance between an individual’s perceived demands and their perceived coping ability in response to those demands. When a demand is perceived as greater than the individual’s coping ability, the situation is stressful. Cox and McKay proposed the Transactional Model of Stress in 1978. It consists of two processes called ‘appraisals’ which both form to make a ‘Cognitive Appraisal’. The primary appraisal is when a person assesses the potential demands of an event and the secondary appraisal is when they assess their coping abilities. When there is a mismatch in these two appraisals the individual will either experience feelings of stress, or bodily stress e.g. raised heart beat and blood pressure - sometimes even both! However with this idea, the model ultimately assumes that people think about such demands/abilities to be able to respond to stressful situations, whereas in real life these observations are done automatically without conscious thought.
However, one of the advantages of the Transactional Model is that it accounts for individual differences. It suggests that an individual’s perceptions of different events is responsible for the way their body’s respond to them. For example, one person may find a certain situation very stressful whereas another may find it extremely unstimulating – this is because they will both perceive their coping abilities differently. On the other hand, the model fails to show any processes/responses of the body due to stress. This is because the model is oversimplified – although easy to understand.
It is now known that the body’s response to stress begins with the ‘activation’ of two pathways; the Sympathomedullary pathway (SAM) and the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal pathway (HPA). Both these pathways are controlled by the Hypothalamus, a structure found in the forebrain.
When the body detects emotional stress, the Pituitary Gland is stimulated as part of the HPA to produce ACTH into the bloodstream which then…