Psychology Revision: Stress

  • Created by: Hope
  • Created on: 15-12-14 17:04

Bodies Response to Stress: SAM and HPA


  • Body's response to 'Acute' stressors. Fight or flight response.
  • SNS contains the ANS which activates the Adrenal Medulla which releases Adrenaline and Noradrenaline.
  • SNS= Sympathetic Nervous System
  • ANS= Automatic Nervous System


  • Body's response to 'Chronic'/long term stressors. 
  • Hypothalamus releases CRF which travels to the Pituitary Gland which releases ACTH which travels to the Adrenal Cortex which releases Cortisol.
  • (Cortisol pumps glucose around the body which creates energy.)
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Bodies Response to Stress: Evaluation


P- It has empirical research support

E- Baxter (1981) found people who don't have adrenal glands don't have enough cortisol - you need more cortisol if you're stressed. 

J- Therefore there is wider acedemic credibility. 

P- Its an object measure 

E- THe reason for this is because levels of adrenaline can be measured in blood stream easily. 

J- This suggests quantative methods can be used. 

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Bodies Response to Stress: Evalution


P- It ignores individual differences

E- Mason (1975) found hormone levels (adrenaline ect.) are different in everyone even if they are exposesd to the same stressors. 

J- Therefore it cannot be generalised. 

P- It is a reductionist point of view. 

E- A persons response depends on a number of different factors - the type of stressor, the way an individual interprets the threat. 

J- This suggests the approach is an oversimplification. 

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Stress Related Illness: Kiecolt Glaser Et Al

How does the Immune System work? - Prevent, Detect, Destroy. 

Short-term Stressors: Examination Stress- 

Kiecolt Glaser Et Al (1984) 

  • To find whether short term stressors effect the immune system 
  • Took blood sample of medical students 1 month before exams and during exams 
  • They were also asked to fill in questionaire asking about other stressors in their lives
  • Found that NK cell activity decreased during exams. 
  • Therefore, we can see that short-term stressors reduce immune system functioning. 


  • The experiment has wide acedemic credibility as it is supported by Marucha. Strength 
  • It has a low population validity as they only tested on medical students. Therefore the results cannot be generalised. Weakness 
  • It has high internal validity as it uses scientific methods to gets its results. Strength 
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Stress Related Illness: Marucha Et Al

  • Inflicted punch biopsy in mouth of students during the summer and 3 days before an exam 
  • The wound took 40% longer to heal during exams 


  • It has wide acedemic credibility - it is supported by Kiecolt. Strength 
  • People who use stress coping exercises improve in their health - therefore stress has something to do with health. Strength 
  • Health is a slow change so stressors can't change health. Weakness
  • The experiment is easy to repeat. Strength 
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Stress Related Illness: Ongoing Stress

Ongoing Stressors: Relationship Stress 

Kiecolt Glaser Et Al (2005)

  • Tested how fast wounds heal with marital stress
  • Blinster wounds healed slower on marries couples who'd had an argument 


  •  The experiment has high population validity - included lots of differnet people, therefore it has high external validity and can be generalised 

Malarkey Et Al 

  • Tested 90 newlyweds 
  • When resolving stressful issues adrenaline and noradrenaline go up 
  • This leads to poorer immune system functioning 


  • It has wide acedemic credibility as both studies had the same conclusion 
  • Lazurus' findings refuted the experiments findings 
  •     Lazurus' findings: HEalth is effected by lots of different things probably not stress. Health is generally stable and slow change and monitoring long term health is expensive and impractical. 
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Stress Related Illness: Evaluation


  • P- Studies are supported by figures from industry. 

          E- People in stressful jobs take more time off than those in less stressful jobs 

          J- This gives the experiment wider credibility 

  • P- The research has real life applications 

          E- We now know is someone is ill we should lower the stress their exposed too to make them better

          J- Therefore studies have helped in real life and should be merited even if they are faulted

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Stress Related Illness: Evaluation


  • P- Evans Et Al proved that stress is a good thing it therefore has a wider acedemic credibility

          E- Evans Et Al looked at levels of sIgA in students. He made the students give speeches which is acute             stress. This increased levels of sIgA. He found that during chronic stress makes low sIgA. BUT acute                 stress has more sIgA which results in a more effective immune system. Therefore stress can sometimes             be good.

          J- Therefore conclusions drawn from the research are mixed. 

  • P- There are a great deal of individual differences between stress and the immune system 

          E- Women are more effected by stress and old people are more ill due to stress than young people. 

          J- Studies are generalising too much the effects of stress on 'everyone'. 

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Life Changes

Life changes arte those effects that necessiate a major transition is some aspects of our life. Change requires psychic energy to be expended. 

Holmes and Rahe (1967) 

They developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SSRS) based on 43 life events taken from their analysis of over 5000 patient records. 

Each one of the 43 stressful life events was awarded a Life Change Unit depending on how traumatic it was felt to be. There was 400 participants. 

A total value for stressful life events can be worked out by adding up the scores for each event experianced over a 12 month period.

E.g. - If a person has less that 150 life change units they have 30% chance of suffering from stress.

        150-299 life points mean they have 50% chance of suffering from stress. 

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Life Changes: Support Research - Rahe

3q4ww4Aim: To investigate whether scores on Holmes and Rahe SRRS were connected to illness. 


  • 2,500 male American sailors were given the SRRS to assess how many life events they had experianced in the previous 6 months. Total score was recorded for each participant. 
  • Then over the following six months detailed records were kept of each sailors health status. 
  • They recorded number of Life Change Units were correlated with the sailors illness scores. 


  • There was a positive correlation between Life Change scores and illness scores. Although the correlation was small it did indicate that there was a meaningful relationship
  • As life change units increased so did the frequency of illness. 


  • THe researchers concluded that as Life Change Units wrre positively correlated with illness scores, experiancing life events increased the chances of stress-related health breakdown. As the correllation was not perfect, life events cannot be the only factor contributing to illness. 


-Doesn't take into account individual differences, some people cope better with stress -Has low population validity, therefore cannot be generalised. Only tested males. 

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Life Changes: Recent Research

Michael and Ben-Zur (2007)

Aim: To investigate whether large life changes did have a negative effect on stress levels


  • Used 130 participants, both male and female, 50% were recently widowed and 50% were recently divorced. 
  • They measured levels of life satisfaction using a questionnaire- higher levels of life satisafation means lower levels of stress. 


  • THe widowed group had levels of life satisfation which were highest before their partner died. 
  • Divorced group had levels of life satisfation which were highest after seperation, this could be because they have turned the life change into a positive rather than a negative experiance using coping mechanisms.


  • THe researchers concluded that life changes wcould increase stress levels, but if you used coping strategies and turned the change into a positive experiance then stress was not as severe. AO2-

- Doesnt take account of individual differences, For example some people have better coping skills, Low population validity

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Life Changes: Evaluation

  • Life changes may be more complex than Holmes and Rahe have suggested. Critics argue it is the quality of the event that is important. With undesired, unscheduled and uncontrolled being the most harmful.
  • Lazurus suggests the major life changes are rare, when daily hassles are common. Therefore we should pay more attention to daily hassles. 
  • De Longis Et Al studies 75 married couples they gave them the life events questionaire and a hassles and uplifts scake, They found no relationship between life events and health but found one with daily hassles and health. Thi s suggests there may be extranious variables (daily hassles) at play in the research lowering internal validity.
  • The SRRS does not take into account individual differences. 
  • Most of the research is correlated- does not show cause and effect - so it only shows there is a relationship not that life events cause stress.
  • The life changes approach relies on peoples memory of their life events being accurate and consistent.
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Daily Hassles: Bouteyre

Daily hassles are relatively minor event sthat arise in the course of a normal day. The emotional effects are usually short-lived, they may linger if left unresolved. 

Bouteyre (2007)

Aim: To investigate if there is a relationship between daily hassles and mental health 

Procedure: He used first year french uni students. Students moving from school to uni completed the HSUP scale (Hassle and Uplift Scale) and the Beck depression inventory to measure depression

Results: 41% suffered from depressive symptoms and there was a positive correlation between HSUP scores and the depressive syptoms. 

Conclusion: There isa  correlation between daily hassles and incidence of depressive symptoms 

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Daily Hassles: Gervais

Gervais (2005)

Aim: To investigate the effects of hassles and uplifts at work

Procedure: Asked nurses to keep diaries for a month, recording their daily hassles, uplifts and rating their perfomance. 

Results: Daily hassles increased with job strain and decreased performance. But uplifts counteracted some of the negative effects

Conclusion: Gervais concluded that although daily hassles did cause siginificant stress, the effects of uplifts could contract this stress

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Daily Hassles: Ruffin

Ruffin (1993)

Aim: To investigate which has more of a negative effect, life changes or daily hassles

Procedure: Questionnaire data was collected from 203 respondants within an australian community using a stratified sampling technique.

Results: Found that daily hassles were linked with greater psychological and physical dysfunction that major life events

Conclusion: Ruffin concluded that although life events had an effect on peoples lives, daily hassles cause more issues. 

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Daily Hassles: Flett

Flett (1995)

Aim: To investigate which has more of a negative effect, life changes or daily hassles

Procedure: 320 students read a scenario describing a life event of hassle and they rated the amount of support they would recieve 

Results: Found that major life changing events may differ from daily hassles in the extent to which a person would recieve and/or seek social support

Conclusion: Concluded that hassles were worse as they resulted in reduced social support from others 

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Daily Hassles: Why So Stressful?

Lazurus (1999) states that minor daily hassles accumulate to produce persisitant frustrations and irritations which lead to serious reactions like anxiety and depression. Researchers agree that this has a greater impact on stress related illness that life changes.

The Accumulation Effect: Daily hassles build up and results in more serious stress reactions. It creates persistant irriations which leads to finding other hassles more stressful

The Amplification Effect: Chronic stress caused by negative life changes can 'wear people out' making them more prone to stress from daily hassles. Life events might make people more vunerable to daily hassles and less able to cope with them 

The Action Theory: Hassles are disruptive because they involve effort, preventing us from pursuing our goals. This makes us fatiuges and also makes us feel negative. 

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Daily Hassles: Evaluation

Casuality: Most of the data on daily hassles is correlational, meaning we cannot conclude that daily hasles effect stress related illness. We can only tell from the data that daily hassles affect our health and well being 

Cultural Issues: Social support is the physcial and emotional comfort given to us by those around us and is important in protecting us from stress. Kim and Mckenry found that cultures such as hispanics used social support mroe than white americans did. 

Memory Problems: All the data is retrospective as most research on daily hassles are based around how the partificants recall events in the past. So poeple may recall daily hassles and how much  stress it caused they incorrectly. 

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Work Place Stress

Workplace stressors are aspects of the workplace environment which create a stress response. 

4 main types of work place stress:

Role Conflict: Home-work Interface- Balancing the demands of home and work can be stressful (Pomaki Et Al)

Environment: Physical Environment- Noise and heat make work more difficult and more energy has to be used to over come them.

Workload: How much work and the tpye of work a person does. Too much and too little can cause stress

Control: Lack of Control- In many organisations other people determine workload and work patterns.

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Workplace Stress: Role Conflict

Pomaki Et Al (2007)

Aim: To investiage relationship betweeen stress in workplace and stress in everyday family life and life at home

Procedure: She studied 226 hospital doctors and asked them about the stresses they had at work and how this casued them stress at home AND how stresses at home caused them stress at work

Findings: Showed that role conflict was directly associated with emtional exhaustion and depression

Conclusion: Workplace and home-life stresses cause people stress as it is hard to balance them both 

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Workplace Stress: Control

Marmot Et Al (1997)

Aim: To investigate relationship between control in the workplace and the incidence of conorary heart disease.

Procedure: Used 7372 both male and female british civil servants aged 35-55 over 5 years. Particiapants were sent questionaire on workload and control and asked to take part in screening examination for CHD at beginning of study. At the end of the study they were re-assesed.

 Results: After taking age into account, both men and women in the lowest grades were threee times more likely to develop CHD 

Conclusion: Having low control over your work casues you more stress than having a lot of control. 


  • He did heart tests so he only knew if lack of control effected the heart, not if it affected anything else as well
  • He only used people from 35-55, no one younger who could be less likely to develop CHD.
  • Johansson (1978) disagreed with him. He looked at Sawyers in a swedish saw mill. This is a very stressful ljob. THe high-rishk group were found to have higher illness rates. Therefore, high workloasds causes workplace stress
  • Kivimaki (2006) Anaylsed 14 studies to see how CHD links to workplace stress. Tested over 83,000 people from all over world. Found that people with more job strain where 50% more likely to develop CHD.
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Workplace Stress: Evaluation

  • Fails to control extranious variables. Does not take into accounts important variables like how different types of personalitys react to workplace stress
  • Many of the studies use self report methods (questionaires ect). This means the results are influenced by social desirability. People answer the questions according to social norms or how they think the researcher wants them to be answered. 
  • Link between the two is correlational. Does not show casue and effect relationship
  • Individual differences are not taken into account. 
  • Some of the studies have low population validity and therefore cannot be generalsied and so have low external validity. 
  • However, there is a significant real life applications for society and therefore has high mundane realsim.
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Stress and Personality:

Personality: A set of characteristic behaviours, attitudes and gerneral temperment that distinguish one person from another

Type A and Type B Personalitys:

Type A:

Freidman and Rosenman (1959) said that Type A individuals always want to achieve therir best and possess 3 major characteristics:

  • Competitiveness and achievement striving
  • Impatience and time urgency 
  • Hostility and aggressiveness

Type B:

In contrast, Type B lack these characteristics. They are patient, relaxed and easy going and therefore less vunerable to stress-related illness. 

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Stress and Personality: Type A

Type A Research- Freidman and Rosenman 

Procedure: Set up the Western Collabrative Group Study in 1960. 3000 middle ages men ages 39 to 59 living in LA were examined for signs of CHD and their personalitys were assesed by interview. The interview included questions about how they respond to everyday ppressures. 

Results: THe findings were alarming. After 8 and a half years twice as many Type A participants had died of heart problems. Over 12% of type A's had experianced a heart attack compared to 6% Type B's. 

Conclusion:  Type A personalitys are more likely to develop CHD.


  • Experiment didnt take into account extrainious variables. Some of the men invovled could have inherited CHD from their family Therefore the internal validity has been lowered
  • The experiment was gender biased, therefore it has high population validity and cannot be generalised 
  • IT is just correlation, this doesnt mean there was definitely a link 
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Stress and Personality: Hardy

Kobasa and Maddi (1977) said to have a Hardy Personality you have to have....

  • Control : see themsevles as being in control 
  • Commitment: Invovled with the world around them and have a strong sense of purpose
  • Challenge- See lifes challenges as problems to overcome. Enjoy change as an opportunity for development 

Aim: To test any link between a hardy personality and stress levels

Procedure: 800 buisness execuatives stress levels were tested using Holmes and Rahes SSRS and hardiness was also adressed using a hardiness test

Results: 150 of the execuatives had high  levels of stress. Those with low levels of illness and therefore low levels of stress were more likely to have scored high on the hardiness test

Conclusion: Having a hardy persoanlity can reduce the levels of stress

Lifton Et Al (2006) did an experiment measurnig hardiness in studnets at 5 US universitys to see if hardniess was relating to likelihood of someone completing their degree. The results showed that stufents scoring low in hardiness test were the drop-outs and people who scored high usually got their degree. 


  • They used questionaires which do not always give the best results 
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Physiological Stress Management: BZ's

Benzodiazepines (BZs)

These work by slowing down the activity of the central nervous system 

GABA is the bodies natural anxiety releif. It stops neurons in the brain being as senstivite. Locks onto receptors increasing the flow of chloride ions which makes it hard for the neurons to be stimulated. This slows down the brain activity making the person feel relaxed. 

BZs work by making the body make more GABA. THey also reduce serotonine activity which recudes anxiety. 


  • They are very effective. Kahn followed 250 patients over 8 weeks and found that BZs were superior to a placebo. 
  • They are effective in reducing anxiety in a variety of stressful sitations 
  • THey are easy to use for the patient. They require little effort from the user. This saves time and money e.g. treatment isnt as long as SIT
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Physiological Stress Management: BBs

Beta-Blockers (BBs)

They work by reducing the actvitiy of the SAM nervous system. They bind to receptors of the cells of the heart and other parts of the body that are usually stimulated during arousal. This in effect reduces fight or flight response

By blocking receptors, it is harder to stimulate cells, for e.g. in the heart, so it beats slower with less force. This reducs blood presssure and less stress. So the person feels calmer and less anxious. 


  • They can lead to addiction
  • They do not experiance side effects however new research said that they can lead to increased risk of diabetes.
  • They only treat the symtpoms and not the cause. Thee ffects only lasts as long as the person takes the drugs. 
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Psychological Stress Management: SIT

Stress Incoluation Training 

It is a form of Stress Management/ Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

The Three Steps of SIT:

  • Conceptualisation: Establish relationship between therapist and patient, taught that percieved threats can be solved
  • Skills Aquisition: Taught skills to practice positive thinking and relaxtion
  • Application Phase: Apply in different situations (imaginery, role, model)


  • Strength- It has research support. Meichenbam (1996) found that its succesfful with acute and chronic stress. Therefore the principle of sit has high external validity as it can be applied outside and it works
  • Weakness- It is time consuming and lots of motivation is needed so it cannot work for everyone 
  • Strenght- It does help people deal with future stressors. It gives them confience and skills that can be used at a later date 
  • Weakness- It is very complex, probably more than it needs to be 
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Psychological Stress...Hardiness Training

Hardiness Training:

Aim- To teach people to because more hardy (less stressy), increase self confidence and sense of control 

3 Steps: 

  • Focusing- Cleints are taught how to recgonise signs of stress and what has caused it. 
  • REliving stessful encounters - so that you can analyse it 
  • Self improvement - Insights can now be used to learn  new techniques of how to deal. 


  • Hardniess training has helped at risk students stay in uni and graudate
  • Fletcher (2005) has found that is has also been used by olympic swimmers to ensure they are committed to challenge and are able to control the stressful aspects of their daily lives that might affect training 
  • BEfore ti can treat someone it needs to address badic aspects of personality and learned habits that are difficult to change
  • It is very time consuming and expensive
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