Stressors and Stress Responses

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Psychology & Sociology

A stressor is anything that disrupts the balance of homeostasis. Stress is the physiological response to a stressor. Stress comes in two main types: distress (negative impact) and eustress (positive impact). The intensity of the response is often determined by the type of stressor, which can be categorized into four main groups: daily hassles, life events, environmental stressors, and catastrophes.

Cognitive appraisal is a two-step process involving primary appraisal (assessing if a stressor is a threat) and secondary appraisal (deciding how to respond). The stressor triggers a stress response activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) through the HPA pathway, causing the release of stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine from the adrenal glands. General adaptation syndrome (GAS) comprises three stages of the body's response to stress: alarm (initial SNS activation), resistance (body's attempt to adapt and restore homeostasis), and exhaustion (resource depletion and decreased ability to respond to new stressors). Chronic stress can lead to physical and mental issues, including impaired emotional, cognitive, and memory functions.

Lesson Outline

<ul> <li>Introduction to stress and stressors</li> <ul> <li>Distress (negative impact)</li> <li>Eustress (positive impact)</li> </ul> <li>Types of stressors</li> <ul> <li>Daily hassles</li> <li>Life events or personal changes</li> <li>Environmental stressors</li> <li>Catastrophes</li> </ul> <li>Cognitive appraisal</li> <ul> <li>Primary appraisal (initial assessment)</li> <li>Secondary appraisal (deciding what to do about it)</li> </ul> <li>Physiological response to stress (sympathetic nervous system activation)</li> <ul> <li>HPA pathway</li> <li>Release of stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine)</li> </ul> <li>General adaptation syndrome (GAS)</li> <ul> <li>Alarm stage</li> <li>Resistance stage</li> <li>Exhaustion stage</li> </ul> <li>Effects of chronic stress</li> <ul> <li>Physical problems (tense muscles, cardiovascular disease)</li> <li>Decreased parasympathetic activity (depressed immune system, digestion, reproduction)</li> <li>Changes in the brain (prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus)</li> <ul> <li>Difficulty coping</li> <li>Heightened emotional responses</li> <li>Anxiety</li> <li>Decline in memory function</li> </ul> </ul> <li>Methods to combat stress</li> <ul> <li>Meditation</li> <li>Exercise</li> </ul> </ul>

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What is the difference between stressors and stress responses?

Stressors are external or internal factors that disrupt an individual's balance of homeostasis, causing physiological or psychological demands. Examples of stressors include daily hassles, environmental challenges, and life events. Stress responses, on the other hand, are the body's psychological and physiological reactions to stressors. These responses can involve various systems in the body, such as the sympathetic nervous system and the HPA pathway.

What are the key differences between distress and eustress?

Distress and eustress are two types of stress responses. Distress is a negative response to stressors that causes harm or discomfort to the individual. It can lead to poor health outcomes, impaired cognitive functioning, and an overall decrease in well-being. Eustress, on the other hand, is a positive response to stressors that can provide motivation, enhance learning, and contribute to personal growth and development. Eustress can positively influence an individual's performance, promote adaptability, and lead to a healthier, more well-rounded lifestyle.

How does the sympathetic nervous system play a role in the stress response?

The sympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system and plays a critical role in the body's stress response. When a stressor is encountered, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, resulting in a release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This activation leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow to muscles, as well as heightened alertness and energy levels. These physiological changes prepare the body for a 'fight or flight' response, allowing the individual to either face the stressor or avoid it.

What is the cognitive appraisal process in relation to stress response?

Cognitive appraisal is a key component of the stress response, as it refers to an individual's interpretation and evaluation of a particular stressor. The cognitive appraisal process involves assessing the potential threat or demands posed by the stressor, as well as evaluating one's resources and ability to cope with it. This process can significantly influence the stress response by either intensifying or minimizing the perceived severity of the stressor. Essentially, if an individual appraises a stressor as manageable and within their control, they are more likely to experience eustress; whereas, if they appraise it as uncontrollable and overwhelming, they may experience distress.

How does chronic stress impact the general adaptation syndrome stages and overall well-being?

Chronic stress refers to ongoing, long-term exposure to stressors, which can have detrimental effects on an individual's physical and mental health. The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) includes three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. In the case of chronic stress, the body undergoes prolonged activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the HPA pathway, leading to continuous release of stress hormones. This sustained stress response can result in the body's inability to adapt and recover, ultimately leading to the exhaustion stage, where the body's resources become depleted. This, in turn, may contribute to a weakened immune system, increased susceptibility to illnesses, cognitive impairments, and various other health issues.