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Unit 9

Stress, Illness, and Well-Being


  • State of internal physiological and psychological balance
  • Body maintains normal balance
    • Until…… It’s disrupted
  • Stressor: anything that disrupts this normal balance
    • External Stressor: Someone chasing you
    • Internal Stressor: The expectation of a threat around the corner
    • Both external and internal stress on the body will garner the same physiological response.

What Is Stress?

  • A normal part of everyday life
  • A positive & negative phenomenon
    • Eustress
      • Positive stress (e.g.: Wedding, job promotion)
    • Distress
      • Negative stress (e.g.: Death of a loved one, job stress, test anxiety)
  • A process

The Stress Process

  • Stressors (e.g., positive or negative)
  • Perception (e.g., demands vs. capabilities)
    • High or low demands
    • Belief in capabilities to deal with stressor (self-efficacy)
  • Stress response (e.g., physical arousal)

What determines Perception?

  • Life Experiences
    • Successes, failures, hardships, etc.
  • Self-Concept
    • Self-esteem, self-efficacy
  • Attributional Style
    • Optimistic vs. Pessimistic
  • Locus of Control
    • Internal vs. External
  • Personality
    • E.g.: Type A vs. Type B

Acute vs. Chronic Stress

  • Acute stress
    • Sudden, typically short-lived, threatening event (e.g., robbery, giving a speech)
  • Chronic stress
    • Ongoing environmental demand (e.g., marital conflict, work stress, personality)

Learned Helplessness – Seligman, Peterson, et al.

  • Dogs exposed to unavoidable shocks
  • Following exposure, when placed in a situation where they can now jump to avoid the shock, they fail to make the escape response.
  • Learned helplessness occurs when one perceives that one’s actions (e.g., working hard) does not lead to the expected outcome (e.g., high grade).


  • Emotional
    • (e.g., Expression, control, ups and downs)
  • Environment
    • (e.g., Unsafe, unsanitary conditions, noise, overcrowding, pollution)
  • Social factors
    • (e.g. Acceptance by others, pressure, media, peers, social conditions)
  • Economic
    • (e.g., Unemployment, tuition, loans, bills)
  • Organizational
    • (e.g., Time constraints, procrastination, finishing required tasks)

Stress Response = Fight-or-flight Response

The General Adaptation Syndrome

  • Series of physiological phases/stages that the body goes through when exposed to a stressor.
  • Body prepares either to fight or to flee in the face of adversity.
    1. Alarm Stage
    2. Resistance Stage
    3. Exhaustion Stage

The Alarm Reaction

the alarm reaction

General Adaptation Syndrome

general adaptation syndrome diagram

  • Alarm Stage
    • Pupils dilate
    • Respiration increases
    • Digestion stops
    • Veins constrict
    • Arteries dilate
    • Muscles contract
    • Adrenalin secreted
    • Heart rate increases
  • Resistance Stage
    • Various organs are targeted for dealing with elements of the stressor
    • Organs attempt to resist the stress
    • Heart rate stays up, digestion and immunity decrease
    • Unable to sustain resistive mechanism forever………
    • Reach Exhaustion Stage
  • Exhaustion
    • Decreased resistance to stressor, decrease immune system response
    • Rest is necessary for recovery
    • Get adequate relief from stressors

    It’s important to remember that not everyone exhibits the same stress response!!!

Health Effects Of Chronic Stress


Dryness, hives, itching
Indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, constipation
Tight muscles, tenseness
Immune System
Increase risk of infection with decrease in immune response
Increase heart rate and increase blood pressure = increase risk of heart disease
Other effects
Migraine headaches, tension headaches, inability to concentrate, maladaptive coping mechanisms (e.g., drug or alcohol use)


  • Anxiety
  • Depression


  • Accidents
  • Substance abuse
  • Violence

Managing Stress


  • Process of managing the discrepancy between the demands of a situation and the available resources.
  • Ongoing process of appraisal and reappraisal to determine ability to cope with stressor
  • Can alter the stress problem OR regulate the emotional response.

Emotion-Focused Coping

  • Aimed at controlling the emotional response to the stressor.
  • Often used when the person feels he/she can’t change the stressor (e.g., bereavement); or
  • Doesn’t have resources to deal with the demand.

Problem-Focused Coping

  • Aimed at reducing the demands of the situation or expanding the resources for dealing with it.
  • Often used when the person believes that the demand is changeable.

Stress Management – teaches coping techniques

  • Reduce harmful environmental conditions


awareness of negative thoughts
should, ought, must
thought stoppage
reality check (e.g, is this thinking in my best interest?)
cognitive substitution


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