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Modules 38 & 39. Health and Stress. Health Psychology – studies how biological, psychological and social factors influence health, illness and treatment. Biopsychosocial Model. Health Psychology Understand the relationship between Mind and Body

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Modules 38 & 39

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Modules 38 & 39

Health and Stress

Health Psychology – studies how biological, psychological and social factors influence health, illness and treatment.

Biopsychosocial Model

  • Health Psychology

  • Understand the relationship between

  • Mind and Body

  • - Educate people about health risks.

  • Design programs to reduce

  • health risks and promote

  • healthy behaviors.

Epidemiological Studies

- large number of people

- Patterns (correlations) between lifestyle and health outcomes

- look for risk factors of disease.

Top 5 causes of Death are related to Lifestyle


Stressors: Events or situations that are perceived as harmful, threatening, or challenging and thus trigger stress response.

Stress –play role in 50% to 70 % of all physical


Stress is a Reaction to a Stressor.

Is all stress bad? No.Neurological/physical response to threats.Motivation


followed by increased rates of psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety that can be long-lasting.

significant life events/changes

Not all Stressors are negative experiences

Measuring Stress

Social Readjustment Scale

- any change, whether negative or

positive is inherently stress producing.

  • not a good predictor of poor physical

    or mental health.

  • does not take into account

    • subjective appraisal of the event

    • ability to cope

    • Assumes event is the same for everyone

Instead of asking about events we can ask about experiencing Stress

Daily Hassles Scale

  • better predictor of physical symptoms and psychological distress.

Social/cultural Stressors: poverty, low social status, discrimination

Conflict as a source of Stress

Approach-Approach conflict – win/win

easily resolved and not too stressful


  • people often to delay, thus avoiding either.



    People feel stuck and experience

    Stress and anxiety.

Physiological Stress Response

Triggered whenever your mind determines that

you are under threat. Response is the same

regardless of the type of stress!

Fight-or-flight response (Cannon)—rapidly occurring chain of internal physical reactions that prepare people to either fight or take flight from an immediate threat

- activates Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)

 Heart rate, BP, release of epinephrine,

adrenaline, and endorphins.

 Digestion

Increases general arousal level

and reduces concentration.

Immune system:




Net loss of amino

Acids (glucose)



Pituitary Gland


Pituitary Gland






Catecholamines, etc..

Fat Cells:


Heart rate:


Glucocortical Stress Hormones

Stress and The Adrenal Glands


epinephrine and norepinephrine

Short term elevation (20 to 60 mins)

Triggers fight or flight response


Reduced inflammation and enhance tone of circulatory system.

In long run they weaken important systems, lower immunity and lead to illness.

Prolonged stress also linked to depression & other psychological symptoms.

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)

Stage 1. Alarm

- SNS response.

- good for short term stressors, but when

prolonged . . .

Stage 2. Resistance

- prolonged period of moderate arousal

- continued high levels of hormones that elevate

blood sugars -- increase metabolism

- increase immune response

Stage 3. Exhaustion

- prolonged metabolic increase decreases

immune response.



Alarm Resistance Exhaustion

Student Syndrome – students more likely to get sick after exam period.

Burnout - psychological, physical and behavioral

dysfunction in response to continuous, chronic



Shortening of Telomeres

normally occurs with age.

Stress appears to increase the rate of shortening!

Stress does age people.

Presidents actually tend to

live pretty long: WHY?

Access to superior medical

care, good education, and it

takes an inherently healthy

person to endure the rigors of a presidential campaign and administration.

Stress and Illness

Psychosomatic illness

Psychophysiological Illness

Psychoneuroimmunology (Mind/Body)

SNS is a direct link between CNS and the physical systems of the body.

Stress and the Immune System

Lymphocytes – white blood cells that fight

viruses and bacteria

Lymphocytes have receptors for neurotransmitters and hormones AND they also produce these chemical messengers.

Problems develop when the immune system is either underactive or overactive.

Underactive - does not protect against disease.

Overactive – Immune system may attack one’s own body tissue.

  • Arthritis

  • Allergies

  • Autoimmune disorders

Woman have stronger immune systems than men. Also more susceptible to autoimmune disorders!

Personality, Stress and Illness

Type A - competitive, workaholic, impatient, quick to anger.

Type B - less competitive, easy-going, less hostile

Cynical Hostilityis the most predictive Type A behavior for Heart Disease.

Type A individuals are more susceptible to negative effects of stress, including vulnerability to heart disease, with anger and hostility being primary factors.

  • Low Hostility

  • High Hostility

How Do You Deal with Stress?

Components of Stress Reactions






Stress Coping Techniques

1) Assess Stressors

- reduce those you do not need.

2) Cognitive Appraisal

- Sense of Control

- Predictability - plan to cope

- time management

3) Work on your reaction to Stress

Optimism!! Positive outlook

Explanatory Style

  • Explain failures as external (situational),

    unstable (temporary) and specific.

    Hardy Personality

    - commitment to activities

    - see their activities as worthwhile

    - see potential stressors as a challenge

    - sense of control

4) Social Support

5) Journal Writing

Blunting Strategies




6) Aerobic Exercise!

Moderate exercise adds

two years to your life!

Text lists many benefits – but misses one.

That physical exertion often tricks the SNS into thinking that the threat is over -- Turns off fight or flight response!

7) Distraction

Taking one’s mind off problems can help when the stressor involves a waiting period (i.e., did I get the job) but if it is distracting for coping with the stress, it can make it worse!

The SNS is part of the autonomic system.

We do not have voluntary control over it.

We do however have indirect control.

Components of Relaxation

Control of Breathing

- changes SNS response

Imagery – Nervous system

responds to imagery the same

way it does to reality. Calming

thoughts and images activate

PNS turning off Fight or flight

(SNS) response.

Progressive Relaxation

- systematic tensing and relaxing of muscle groups

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