Blizzard Bag #2

Welcome to your snow day! I hope you find time to have fun as well as completing this assignment!

Read the Following Article and Answer the Questions Following

Psychology and Mental Health

Stress-related diseases Link for Article

Type of psychology: Stress
Field of study: Stress and illness
As a person experiences stress, physical responses occur that have been associated with a host of physical diseases. Understanding the stress-diseaserelationship, including how to control and lower stress levels, is important in maintaining health.


The term “stress,” as it is used in the field of psychology, may be defined as the physical or psychological disturbance an individual experiences as a result of what that individual perceives to be an adverse or challenging circumstance. Four observations concerning this definition of stress should be made. First, stress is what the individual experiences, not the circumstance causing the stress (thestressor). Second, individuals differ in what they perceive to be stressful. What may be very stressful for one individual may not be at all stressful for another. Hans Selye, the researcher who did more than anyone else to make the medical community and the general population aware of the concept and consequences of stress, once noted that, for him, spending the day on the beach doing nothing would be extremely stressful. This difference in people’s perceptions is behind the familiar concept that events do not cause stress. Instead, stress comes from a person’s perception or interpretation of events.
Studies show that stress, and the accompanying health risks, can be lessened through contact with pets.

Third, stress occurs in response to circumstances that are seen as negative, but stress may also arise from challenging circumstances, even positive ones. The well-known Social Readjustment Rating Scale developed by Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe includes both positive and negative life events. A negative event, such as the death of a spouse, is clearly stressful; however, marriage, generally viewed as a positive life event, can also be stressful. Fourth, stressors can lead to stress-related disturbances that are psychological, physiological, or both. The psychological response is rather unpredictable. A given stressor may result in one individual responding with anger, another with depression, and another with a new determination to succeed.


The physiological response is more predictable. Beginning in the 1930’s, Selye began studying the human response to stressors. Eventually he identified what he termed the general adaptation syndrome to describe the typical pattern of physical responses. Selye divided the general adaptation syndrome into three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.
The first stage begins when an individual becomes frightened, anxious, or even merely concerned. The body immediately undergoes numerous physical changes to cope with the stressor. Metabolism speeds up. Heart and respiration rates increase. The hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol are secreted. Sugar is released from the liver. The muscles tense. Blood shifts from the internal organs to the skeletal musculature. These and a host of other changes are aimed at helping the body cope, but the price paid for this heightened state of arousal typically includes symptoms such as headache, upset stomach, sleeplessness, fatigue, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. The body’s increase in alertness and energy is accompanied by a lowered state of resistance to illness.
Obviously, people cannot remain in the alarm stage for long. If the stressor is not removed, the body enters the resistance stage—a stage that may last from minutes to days or longer. During this stage, the body seeks to adapt to the stressor. The physical changes that occurred during the alarm stage subside. Resistance to illness is actually increased to above-normal levels. Because the body is still experiencing stress, however, remaining in this stage for a long period will eventually lead to physical and psychological exhaustion—the exhaustion stage.
Selye has noted that over the course of life, most people go through the first two stages many, many times. Such is necessary to adapt to the demands and challenges of life. The real danger is found in not eliminating the stressor. During the exhaustion stage, the body is very vulnerable to disease and in extreme cases may suffer collapse and death. Although later research has found subtle differences in the stress response, depending on the stressor involved, the basic findings of Selye have continued to be supported. In addition to the direct physiological effects of stress on the body, indirect effects may also lead to illness. For example, stress may cause or exacerbate behavioral risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, and overeating.


Specific illnesses can also be caused or promoted by stress. For many years Americans have been aware of the relationship between stress and heartdisease. The biochemical changes associated with stress lead to higher blood pressure, an increased heart rate, and a release of fat into the bloodstream. If the fat is completely consumed by the muscles through physical activity (for example, defending oneself from an attacker), no serious health consequences follow. If, however, a person experiences stress without engaging in physical activity (a more common scenario in Western culture), the fat is simply deposited on the walls of the blood vessels. As these fatty deposits accumulate, life is threatened.

The work of two cardiologists, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, is of particular importance to a discussion of heart disease and stress. Friedman and Rosenman demonstrated, based originally on personal observation and subsequently on clinical research, that there is a personality type that is particularly prone to heart disease. The personality type that is at the greatest risk was found to be one which is highly stressed—impatient, hostile, hard-driving, and competitive. They termed this a Type A personality. The low-risk person, the Type B personality, is more patient, easygoing, and relaxed.
Numerous studies have examined health based on the Type A-Type B concept. Virtually all have supported Friedman and Rosenman’s conclusions. One major report, however, did not; subsequent analysis of that report and other research generally has indicated that the aspects of the Type A personality that are threatening to one’s health are primarily the hostility, cynicism, and impatience, not the desire to achieve.

A newer area of research that is even more fundamental to understanding how stress is related to disease involves the immune system. As the physiological changes associated with stress occur, the immune system is suppressed. The immune system has two primary functions: to identify and destroy hazardous foreign materials called antigens (these include bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi) and to identify and destroy the body’s own cells that have undergone changes associated with malignancy. Thus, if the immune system is suppressed, the body is less able to detect and defend against a host ofdiseases. An example of this effect again involves research with laboratory rats. One such investigation involved placing tumor cells in the bodies of rats. Some of the rats were then exposed to an abundance of stress. Those that were given this treatment were less resistant to the cancer. Their tumors were larger, and they developed sooner than those found in the “low-stress” rats.

The recent growth of the field of psychoneuroimmunology focuses specifically on the chemical bases of communication between mind and body. Research in this area provides evidence that the body’s immune system can be influenced by psychological factors that produce stress. One study, for example, showed that during students’ examination periods, the levels of students’ antibodies that fight infections were lowest. Thus they were most vulnerable to illness at that most stressful time. Health centers confirm that students tend to report more illness during examination times.
As research continues, the number of specific diseases that can be linked to stress grows. A partial listing of stress-related diseases and disorders for which recent research is available would include acne, asthma, cancers (many types), colds, coronary thrombosis, diabetes mellitus, gastric ulcers, herpes simplex (types 1 and 2), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraine headache, mononucleosis syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, streptococcal infection, stroke, systemic lupus erythematosus, and tuberculosis.
Research has shown that stress may also play a role in depression, sleep disturbances, ovulation, and brain atrophy associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Stress as a cause of stomach ulcers has been essentially negated, with the discovery that these ulcers are generally caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which can be treated with antibiotics. However, stress may still play a role in decreasing the mucous lining of the stomach, which makes it more vulnerable to ulcer formation. Some experts feel that there is no illness that is not in some way influenced by stress.
Few, if any, of these physical problems are caused solely by stress. Many other factors influence risk, including genetic composition, gender, race, environmental conditions, and nutritional state. Nevertheless, stress is frequently an important factor in determining initial resistance as well as the subsequent course of a given disease.


1. Define Stress and list four things that are Stressful to you in everday life.

2. What is a stressor? Are these the same for all people?

3. What is General Adaptation Syndrome?

4. What are the three stages of stress?

5. What happens in the first stage of stress and what hormones are associated with it?

6. What happens during the resistance stage?

7. What is the body vulnerable to during the esaustion stage? ________________________________

8. Are you a Type A or Type B personality? _______________________________________

9. How does stress effect your immune system?_____________________________________

10. Is the number of diseases related to stress growing or declining?_________________________________

11. Name Five stressors in your life write now and one coping method for each one. (ie. take a walk, relaxation techniques, exercise)

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