Stress – questions and answers

Stressors are events that throw the body out of balance and force it to respond triggering the stress response. Stress management is the attempt to cope with the effects of the stressor through the reduction of the stress response. This can be done physically, i.e. through the use of biofeedback or anti-anxiety drugs, or psychologically, i.e. through stress inoculation or hardiness training. b) Describe the procedures and findings of one study into the effects of stress on the immune system.

Keicolt-Glaser et al aimed to establish a link between stress and reduced immune function. They took 75 self-selected first year medical students and conducted a natural experiment involving varying levels of stress inflicted by exams. Using a repeated measures design, they took blood samples from each participant – once a month before exams and again on the day of their final exams. This demonstrated low and high stress levels. The presence of lymphocytes in the blood, responsible for immune functioning, was measured with a high number representing better immune function. Also on each occasion the participants were given a questionnaire measuring their psychological state.

Keicolt-Glaser et al found that lymphocyte activity lowered between low stress and high stress situations therefore showing a reduced immune function. The questionnaire results showed that immune function was particularly lowered in those who said they were experiencing psychiatric symptoms, loneliness or stressful life events. c) ‘To be effective, stress management techniques must target both the physical and the psychological aspects of stress.’ Consider the effectiveness of physical approaches to stress management. Stress management is an attempt to cope with the stress response through reduction or elimination. It is based on changing the individuals perceived ability to cope with the stressful situation or reducing the physiological stress response (‘fight or flight’ response); this can be physiologically or psychologically based. Physiological approaches include biofeedback and anti-anxiety drugs.

Biofeedback is technique in learning how to control involuntary muscles or voluntary muscles that cannot normally be controlled in order to reduce the effects of the stress response. It aims to reduce the ANS activity, which in turn reduces the stress sensations. It can consequently lower the effects of stress on health as the response is lessened. An individual is made aware of physiological activity, such as heart rate or blood pressure, which are involved in a stress response possibly via a machine. The individual is then trained in techniques to reduce these physiological aspects of stress. The control of these aspects is indirect and is usually affected by methods of relaxation. For example deep breathing can regulate an increased heart rate. The ANS responds to rewards and reinforcement and so is influenced by the individual seeing the positive effects of biofeedback.

Biofeedback can involve 3 stages; 1. Developing an awareness of a specific physiological response. 2. Learn ways of controlling that response in quiet conditions. 3. Transferring that control into the conditions of everyday life. Biofeedback has been found to produce short and long term reductions in physical stress responses and the return to a level of homeostasis following the disruption in the body’s natural functions caused by stress. Biofeedback does not have to only be applied to stress. Dworkin and Dworkin (1988) worked with teenagers suffering from scoliosis. The teenagers successfully used biofeedback techniques to learn how to control the muscles of their spine, thus altering their posture and allowing them to overcome the disorder. This also demonstrates the relative successes of biofeedback.

Biofeedback produces a sense of control rather than just eliminating the physiological stress response. Unlike other physiological treatments for stress, such as drugs, this treatment is non-evasive and has no side effects allowing it to be used over the long term with much success. The problems involved with biofeedback are that it is difficult to tell apart from relaxation methods, making it difficult to tell which is more successful. Biofeedback may be more successful in some candidates than in others as it requires commitment and a level of enthusiasm in the abilities of the treatment. Those who are sceptical have a negative attitude making them less willing to succeed.

Another way to reduce an individual’s level of stress is through the use of anti-anxiety drugs. These work on the chemical hormones produced by the body that create anxiety, they are countered by other drugs reducing anxiety. Barbiturates, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers and buspirone are the main categories of anti-anxiety drugs, otherwise known as sedatives, tranquillisers or anxiolytics.

Barbiturates are the least common type of anti-anxiety drug. They work on the central nervous system and are very effective in the reduction of anxiety though they have many side effects. Side effects include problems in coordination, concentration and slurred speech. Due to their addictive properties they have withdrawal affects such as delerium and increased sweating, as a result they have been basically replaced by propanediol and benzodiazepines.

Benzodiadepines are widely used today due to their effectiveness. They act on the neurotransmitters, especially GABA, which decreases serotonin activity reducing arousal. Librium and valium are examples of this drug. Although benzodiazepines are less dangerous than barbiturates with less chance of overdose they are addictive and produce a severe withdrawal syndrome, once removed the original anxiety problems return. Also they have unwanted side effects making people drowsy, causing cognitive and memory impairment, depression and mix poorly with alcohol.

Outline and evaluate two physiological approaches to stress management. One physiological approach to stress management is drug therapy. Drug therapy targets the symptoms of stress, two such drugs are Benzodiazepines and Beta-blockers. Benzodiazepines reduce nervous system activity, this happens because the …

The application of research into stress management can be divided into two categories; physiological methods and cognitive therapies. However, the usefulness of both variations of stress management techniques has been disputed by many psychologists. Biofeedback is a physiological method of stress …

Physiological approaches to stress management use techniques designed to change the activity of the body’s stress response system. Two physiological methods for stress management include drugs and biofeedback. There are two types of drugs that ca be used in stress management; …

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