Above you can see a flowchart of the two ways in which the body responds to stress at the first sign of stress the brain registers the stressor the cerebral cortex will communicate with the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus then triggers the pituitary gland which will then secrete ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). The hypothalamus also initiates the sympathetic branch of the ANS which causes the medulla to release hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones increase the pace of heartbeats and breathing to prepare a person for the flight or fight response. ACTH prompts the adrenal cortex to release corticosteroids which then leads to the secretion of fatty acids and glucose into the bloodstream for energy. These responses are good for dealing with physical stress because it instantly prepares you for the fight or flight instinct. These internal actions are good for physical stressors but can be detrimental to psychological stressors. In terms of short-term physical stressors these processes can be very helpful, for example, if someone is in a situation that could potentially harm them and the fight or flight instinct activates, the person would get a burst of adrenaline that makes it possible to fight or to flee from the situation.
In modern society, these reactions aren’t used as often as they once were. People in the 21st century have much more psychological stress such as moving houses, monetary issues, family and relationship issues. This leads to the body constantly receiving the impact of the flight or fight response such a weaker immune system, fatty acids being released into the bloodstream which will then lead to immunosuppression, coronary heart disease and strokes.
The Transactional Theory.The transactional theory advocates that stress is created when there is an incompatibility between what is being asked of a person and their own perception of their ability to handle these tasks. Occasionally humans will embellish their responsibilities and the tasks that they have been given whilst simultaneously belittling their own coping strategies, this can lead to much more stress than the tasks or responsibilities demand. In order to reduce the stress, the person needs to follow the key principles of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and realistically assess the situation. This theory has strong implications on how stress can be treated because it gives people who are stressed a simple way of understanding and removing psychological stressors. General Adaption Syndrome (GAS) Hans Selye (1907- 1982) created the GAS theory in 1936. The theory introduces states that there are three stages to stress, these stages are:Alarm: this is when the brain is triggered by a stressor and begins the process to release the chemicals and changes needed for the fight or flight response.
Resistance: resistance occurs when there is a continued stressor. The body is constantly releasing chemicals and making the changes for fight or flight and is continuously prepared to handle the danger.Exhaustion: if over a long period of time the stress is ongoing the body can no longer accommodate the constant release of chemicals and changes for fight or flight. During this stage, the body will be fatigued and can develop stress-related illnesses. Hans Selye was the first person to research stress in a scientific way. Therefore, the GAS theory was the first theory of stress and its chemical and physical reactions.
It created a platform for others to research the negative effects of stress. Although Selye was a pioneer of research into stress, he conducted his research on rats which in modern society can be seen as unethical but also rats are different to humans, therefore, making Selye’s research questionable or even reliable.Within modern society, people have a large amount of psychological stress. This stress can come from many places in life such as work, family, relationships and friends. This is the stem of the Social Readjustment Rating Scale or SRRS, created by Holmes and Rahe (1967). This theory suggests that the things in life that cause stress make people have a psychological adjustment and the more people adjust the more stress they deal with in relation to the event. For this reason, Holmes and Rahe created a list of 43 life events and gave them a stress value. The person being tested would check off the events if they have been through the event in a year or two prior to taking the test.
The individual’s score would be calculated to measure the amount of stress in the person’s life. A score of over a 150 indicates a higher chance of 30% to stress-related illness and a 50% chance if the total is over 300. Rahe created an experiment to find the correlation between stress and illness using the SRRS scale (Rahe, Mahan and Arthur, 1970). Rahe gave 2500 sailors the SRRS test to see the score they accumulated over the previous six months. Over the next six months of the sailor’s active duty, detailed health records were created.
After this Rahe studied the correlation between the life events and the illness’s the sailors suffered with. Rahe found that the results of the study reflected a positive correlation of +0.118 between life change scores and illness scores. Although the correlation is very small it shows a strong statistically significant correlation that the more life change points an individual has the higher chances of illnesses. in conclusion, a correlation is shown to increase the risk of illness if the individual has high levels of stress in relation to SRRS scale.
The correlation isn’t high which shows that there must be other factors in the individual’s life that cause illness’s. in criticism of this study, the people being studied were limited to the US Navy, making the study both ethnocentric and androcentric. The study also didn’t take account of the individual’s reaction to stressors. Johansson also studied stress but in relation to the workplace.
The aim of the study was to find out whether work stressors like repetitiveness and a machine regulated pace of work topped with a high level of responsibility would increase the chances of stress-related illnesses. To do this, Johansson found a group of 14 ‘finishers’ within a Swedish sawmill who had a stressful job due to their works impact on the rest of the sawmill, their work would determine the amount of money the rest of the sawmill would be paid. Johannsson compared the ‘finishers’ with the less stressful and more relaxed work of a group of 10 cleaners. The stress-related illnesses were then recorded and the levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline found in the two groups of workers urine were recorded on work and rest days. Johannsson found that the ‘finishers’ released more adrenaline and noradrenaline on the days that they worked and more than the cleaners, the ‘finishers’ also had many more stress-related illnesses than the cleaners.
In conclusion of this study, Johannsson found that repetitious, machine-paced work led to a long-term state of psychological arousal which then led to stress-related illnesses. Critics say that important variables were not taken into account, variables such as the worker’s perception of stress the study also overlooks the identification of which of the stressors were more stressful out of isolation, repetitiveness, fast-paced work and the high levels of responsibility. There have been multiple other studies of stress within a work environment such as the three-year study created by Marmot and others in 1991. Marmot studied 3000 civil servants to measure job control and stress-related illnesses, the study concluded that work is given and timescale of the work given to the individual by others made the individual four time more likely to suffer a heart attack. As previously mentioned stress can cause major issues to an individual’s health.
Due to constant psychological arousal which then leads to exhaustion and a need for energy, this can very easily lead to rapid weight gain. One of the more worrying and deadly impacts of long-term stress on the human body is immunosuppression, this causes a much weaker immune system leaving the body susceptible to infections and illnesses. This happens because corticosteroids are secreted by the adrenal cortex to lower the functions of the immune system, over a long period of time the thymus gland will shrink.
The thymus gland is not then fully capable of producing the T-cells which are the main component of a fully functioning immune system. Kiecolt-Glaser and other created a study to see whether or not the stress of an important examination has an impact on the immune systems functional ability. The study used 75 medical students who had blood samples taken a month before and during the exam. NK cells were used as a measurement for seeing the functionality of the student’s immune system the students also had to fill in a set of questions at the end of the study to asses outside variables such as life events and isolation. Kiecolt-Glaser found that the NK cells were significantly lower in the second blood sample. This study shows how the stress from the examination can lower the ability of the immune system. The study also shows that the immune system can be impacted by psychological stressors. Another large effect of constant stress is coronary heart disease (CHD).
Coronary heart disease can occur when the stress and adrenaline increase an individual’s heart-rate, therefore pushing blood at a faster rate around the body, this also increases blood pressure. Over time certain points of the vascular system waste away and erode due to the pressure of the blood. This erodes the blood vessel lining which then can cause scarring. Due to the stress, fatty acids and glucose are being constantly released into the body, the glucose and fatty acids use the scarred blood vessels as a point to group up, this leads to the creation of clusters which can then block blood vessels. This can then turn into hypertension and atherosclerosis, which is the narrowing of the veins.
These clusters can also block the vessels leading to the brain which would then massively increase the chances of a stroke. Personality has a large impact on an individual’s capability of dealing with stress. According to Friedman and Rosenman (1974), there is a certain type of behaviour that correlated with increased chances of having coronary heart disease. They called this behaviour Type A. whilst there are studies that show links between the type A personality and coronary heart disease, there are only a few. There have also been studies that show a negative correlation.
According to Matthews and Haynes, the one key component to the link between the type A personality and CHD is a high level of hostility (Matthews and Haynes, 1986). Commonly, people with a type A personality is hardy, this can protect them from the negativities of stress. Hardiness comprises three factors: Challenge: the ability to see stressors as a challenge to overcome.Commitment: having a sense of purpose and becoming fully involved in something they have the responsibility of. Control: having high internal control.Friedman and Rosenman created a study to investigate the link between the type A personality and coronary heart disease.
This study consisted of structured interviews with 3200 Californian men between the ages of 39 and 59. These men were then placed into different personality groups, type A, type B or type X. these groups were then reassessed eight and a half years later to assess their health and lifestyle. Friedman and Rosenman found that 257 men from the study now had CHD, 180 (70%) of the men were from the type A category.
This study shows how the type A personality has a direct correlation to increased chances of having a heart disease.