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What Are Stressors In Psychology

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Types Of Psychological Stress Affecting Athletes In

Psychological Stressors & Health (Intro Psych Tutorial #211)

A perfect storm of things was about to collide. I was stressed about issues Id been having with my family. I wasnt sleeping well. On the court, I think the expectations for the season, combined with our 45 start, were weighing on me. NBA star Kevin Love describing the lead up to a panic attack he suffered during a game in 2017.

Loves experience may be an extreme outcome, but stress is an inescapable part of sport at the elite level and it is a double-edged sword.

Harness it correctly and it can propel you to perform at your peak when it matters most and allow you to thrive under the high-pressure environment of game day. But, struggle to balance stressors with appropriate recovery or fail to take them into account when monitoring load and it can lead to mental errors and physiological issues.

Recent studies have shown increased psychological stressors slow down the rate of strength recovery from strength training workouts and inhibit short-term muscular recovery from resistance exercise. Meanwhile, if you lack the necessary resilience to cope with stressors it can have a negative impact on cognitive functions key to good performance, like reaction times and decision-making.

But what exactly are these stressors and how can coaches and athletes identify them in order to adjust and, ultimately, limit the negative impact they can have?

Internal Vs External Stress

Some stressors are internal stress-inducing thoughts or behaviors. These thoughts come from ones psychological mindset or expectations. Examples include putting pressure on yourself to be perfect or fear of public speaking. In more serious cases, internal stressors may lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.

Other stressors come from external factors, which are forces that you cant easily control. Examples include major life events, discovering your pay has been cut, urgent deadlines or an upcoming exam.

Internal and external stressors can have the same physical and psychological effects. You may have trouble sleeping, lose your appetite or lose interest in daily activities. You may be irritable, have headaches or stomach pains, or find that you cry easily.

Over time, chronic stress can be even more damaging. As your body stays in a state of alert, your immune system may be weakened. You could be more at risk for heart attack and stroke. Chronic stress may upset your reproductive and digestive systems.

As you can see, its important to figure out the sources of your stress so you can start working toward a more healthy and relaxed mental state. It is helpful to learn coping skills to deal with stress as stress is part of life.

Stressors During Childhood And Adolescence And Their Psychological Sequelae

The most widely studied stressors in children and adolescents are exposure to violence, abuse , and divorce/marital conflict . also provide an excellent review of the psychological consequences of such stressors. Psychological effects of maltreatment/abuse include the dysregulation of affect, provocative behaviors, the avoidance of intimacy, and disturbances in attachment . Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have higher levels of both general distress and major psychological disturbances including personality disorders . Childhood abuse is also associated with negative views toward learning and poor school performance . Children of divorced parents have more reported antisocial behavior, anxiety, and depression than their peers . Adult offspring of divorced parents report more current life stress, family conflict, and lack of friend support compared with those whose parents did not divorce . Exposure to nonresponsive environments has also been described as a stressor leading to learned helplessness .

Exposure to intense and chronic stressors during the developmental years has long-lasting neurobiological effects and puts one at increased risk for anxiety and mood disorders, aggressive dyscontrol problems, hypo-immune dysfunction, medical morbidity, structural changes in the CNS, and early death .

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The Prevalence Of Stress

Stress is everywhere and, as shown in Figure 13.5, it has been on the rise over the last several years. Each of us is acquainted with stresssome are more familiar than others. In many ways, stress feels like a load you just cant carrya feeling you experience when, for example, you have to drive somewhere in a blizzard, when you wake up late the morning of an important job interview, when you run out of money before the next pay period, and before taking an important exam for which you realize you are not fully prepared.

Stress is an experience that evokes a variety of responses, including those that are physiological , cognitive , and behavioural . Although stress can be positive at times, it can have deleterious health implications, contributing to the onset and progression of a variety of physical illnesses and diseases .

Exercises And Critical Thinking

Health Psychology: Stress
  • Reflect on a recent emotionally or physiologically impactful stressor that you perceived to be threatening or negative. What social, environmental, and personal factors contributed to your appraisal of the stressor? Referencing the list of coping items on the COPE inventory, what types of coping strategies did you apply?
  • Imagine a stressful situation that you believe you coped with positively. Can you identify some coping strategies you used? Can you determine whether you were able to grow through the experience? What factors facilitated a positive outcome for you?
  • What are some major life events you have experienced? Can you identify differences in how you appraised these events? How you coped with these events?
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    Regulating The Stress Response

    The maintenance of a relatively stable balance of physiological functions is constantly challenged by illness injury hostile environmental conditions unpleasant emotional states and even certain normal functions, such as sexual activity and exposure to new environments. The bodys response to such stressors is regulated largely by interactions among the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands, together termed the HPA axis . In response to potentially harmful stimuli, the hypothalamus, which is located near the base of the brain, secretes two hormones that travel directly to the adjacent pituitary gland. These two hormones, corticotropin-releasing hormone and arginine vasopressin , promote the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone from the pituitary gland. Traveling through the bloodstream, ACTH reaches the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys. In humans, the adrenal glands respond to ACTH by releasing the steroid hormone cortisol into the bloodstream. Cortisol exerts widespread physiological effects throughout the body, acting in concert with other chemical messengers to help direct oxygen and nutrients to the stressed body site and suppress the immune response, while influencing certain functions, such as appetite and satiety arousal, vigilance, and attention and mood.

    Regulation of the stress response by the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis.

    Hymie Anisman and Zul Merali

    2The corresponding hormone in rodents is corticosterone.

    Environmental Psychology: Stress Stressors And Its Management

    Stress is an unavoidable part of life and is one of the most frequently researched issues within environmental psychology. Thus, this article evaluates the effect of environmental stressors on individuals. Part of the analysis is the definition of the concept of stress and an explanation of the physiology and psychology of stress provides the necessary information to understand the construct of stress. I selected three environmental stressors and evaluate the affect of those stressors on the individual. Those stressors are: temperature, chemical pollution, and noise. At last, the discussion of strategies to manage those three environmental stressors provides some examples to minimize the impact of environmental stressors on humans.

    The Concept of StressFrom an environmental point of view, stress has been defined as a state that occurs when people are faced with demands from the environment that require them to change in some way . The changes in which people have to adapt to is due to natural and technical catastrophes such as tornados, major personal life events like the death of a loved one, or daily hassles like routine rituals that affect humans daily functioning. This interrelationship between the individual and its environment is of focus and environmental psychologists are not yet sure if stress is the threat itself or the persons perception and response to such a threat.

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    Biological Responses To Stressors

    Traumatic events or any type of shock to the body can cause an acute stress response disorder . The extent to which one experiences ASD depends on the extent of the shock. If the shock was pushed past a certain extreme after a particular period in time ASD can develop into what is commonly known as Post-traumatic stress disorder . There are two ways that the body responds biologically in order to reduce the amount of stress an individual is experiencing. One thing that the body does to combat stressors is to create stress hormones, which in turn create energy reservoirs that are there in case a stressful event were to occur. The second way our biological components respond is through an individual’s cells. Depending on the situation our cells obtain more energy in order to combat any negative stressor and any other activity those cells are involved in seize.

    Can An Employee Sue Their Boss Personally

    Stress – Psychology A-level Revision Video – Study Rocket

    Although federal nondiscrimination laws, including Title VII, the ADEA and the ADA, do not permit suits against individual supervisors, a vast number of state equal employment opportunity statutes “don’t specify that individuals can’t be sued, and courts have allowed them to be sued,” Isler explains.

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    Stress As A Transaction

    In attempting to explain stress as more of a dynamic process, Richard Lazarus developed the transactional theory of stress and coping , which presents stress as a product of a transaction between a person and his or her complex environment. Stress as a transaction was introduced with the most impact when Dr. Susan Kobasa first used the concept of hardiness. Hardiness refers to a pattern of personality characteristics that distinguishes people who remain healthy under life stress compared with those who develop health problems. In the late 1970s, the concept of hardiness was further developed by Salvatore Maddi, Kobasa, and their graduate students at the University of Chicago . Hardiness has some notable similarities with other personality constructs in psychology, including locus of control , sense of coherence , self-efficacy , and dispositional optimism , all of which will be discussed in the next section. Researchers introduced multiple variables to the stress-as-transaction model, expanding and categorizing various factors to account for the complex systems involved in experiencing a stressor . The nature of stress was described in multiple ways: acute, episodic or intermittent, and chronic. Different types of stressors emerged, such as event, situation, cue, and condition, which then fell into categories based on locus of control, predictability, tone, impact, and duration. Figure 16.4 illustrates theories of stress as a response, stimulus, and transaction.

    What Are Some Workplace Stressors

    Here are seven common workplace stressors and some tips on how employees can mitigate their effects.Workload. Heavy workload and long hours make for over-tired and stressed employees. … Unrealistic demands. … Organizational change. … Career and job ambiguity. … Lack of recognition. … Poor interpersonal relationships. … Harassment.

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    Stress: A Working Definition

    As commonly used, the term stressor indicates a situation or event appraised as being aversive in that it elicits a stress response which taxes a persons physiological or psychological resources as well as possibly provokes a subjective state of physical or mental tension. As relevant scientific data have accumulated, however, a simple, universally accepted definition of stress has become increasingly elusive.

    This article focuses on some of the factors that may influence the mechanisms by which a person responds to stressful situations . Much of the information presented here is based on animal research, which can provide essential information not obtainable from human studies. However, the human stress response is influenced by a host of personality characteristics and life experiences that cannot be duplicated in animal studies. Other articles in this issue provide more specific information on possible interactions between stress and human behavioral responses, such as alcohol consumption.

    Morbidity Mortality And Markers Of Disease Progression

    Health Psychology: Stress

    Psychosocial intervention trials conducted upon patients following acute myocardial infarction have reported both positive and null results. Two meta-analyses have reported a reduction in both mortality and morbidity of approximately 20% to 40% . Most of these studies were carried out in men. The major study reporting positive results was the Recurrent Coronary Prevention Project , which employed group-based CBT, and decreased hostility and depressed affect , as well as the composite medical end point of cardiac death and nonfatal MI .

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    Independent Variables And Experimental Design

    A between-subjects 2 × 2 experiment was conducted. Each participant was assigned to one of the four conditions determined by the combination of duty belt and civilian behavioral state .

    As illustrated in Figure 2, the full duty belt weighed 13 lbs and included body armor, belt, two magazines, Taser, baton, latex gloves, radio, firearm, and handcuffs. The reduced duty belt weighed 6.3 lbs and included the firearm, belt, and handcuffs.

    Figure 2. Full-duty belt and body armor.

    The behavioral states were defined by actions, attitudes, and responses of the civilian in the scenario. The calm civilian was compliant, answered questions directly, rolled the window down all the way, and did not hesitate to sign the citation. The aggressive civilian was argumentative , not compliant, hostile, loud, avoided answering questions, made extravagant hand gestures, and resisted signing the citation.

    The Physiological Basis Of Stress

    What goes on inside our bodies when we experience stress? The physiological mechanisms of stress are extremely complex, but they generally involve the work of two systemsthe sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. When a person first perceives something as stressful , the sympathetic nervous system triggers arousal via the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands. Release of these hormones activates the fight-or-flight responses to stress, such as accelerated heart rate and respiration. At the same time, the HPA axis, which is primarily endocrine in nature, becomes especially active, although it works much more slowly than the sympathetic nervous system. In response to stress, the hypothalamus releases corticotrophin-releasing factor, a hormone that causes the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone . The ACTH then activates the adrenal glands to secrete a number of hormones into the bloodstream an important one is cortisol, which can affect virtually every organ within the body. Cortisol is commonly known as a stress hormone and helps provide that boost of energy when we first encounter a stressor, preparing us to run away or fight. However, sustained elevated levels of cortisol weaken the immune system.

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    Inflammation The Immune System And Physical Health

    Despite the stress-mediated immunosuppressive effects reviewed above, stress has also been associated with exacerbations of autoimmune disease and other conditions in which excessive inflammation is a central feature, such as CHD . Evidence suggests that a chronically activated, dysregulated acute stress response is responsible for these associations. Recall that the acute stress response includes the activation and migration of cells of the innate immune system. This effect is mediated by proinflammatory cytokines. During periods of chronic stress, in the otherwise healthy individual, cortisol eventually suppresses proinflammatory cytokine production. But in individuals with autoimmune disease or CHD, prolonged stress can cause proinflammatory cytokine production to remain chronically activated, leading to an exacerbation of pathophysiology and symptomatology.

    Evaluating The Stress Response

    Psychology Concepts: Stress As A Psychological Process

    In general, stressors may be psychogenic and/or neurogenic. Psychogenic stressors are purely of psychological origin . Neurogenic stressors involve a physical stimulus .

    In addition, environmental stressors can be classified as either processive or systemic. Processive stressors are those that require appraisal of a situation or involve high-level cognitive processing of incoming sensory information. Examples of processive stressors among animals include exposure to new environments, predators, or situations that trigger fear because of previous association with unpleasant stimuli . In contrast, systemic stressors are of physiological origin .

    have suggested that both processive and systemic stressors might activate the HPA axis through distinct but converging neurological circuits. Specifically, processive stressors may primarily activate the limbic system, a region of the brain comprising interconnected structures that are associated with arousal, emotion, and goal-directed behavior. Conversely, systemic stressors may more directly influence the hypothalamus, a brain structure with multiple regulatory functions that interacts extensively with the limbic system. In the absence of experimental evidence, it seems reasonable to speculate that processive stressors might be more closely associated with increased alcohol consumption than would systemic stressors.

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    Prevention And Resilience Building

    Decreasing stressful behaviors is a part of prevention. Some of the common strategies and techniques are: self-monitoring, tailoring, material reinforcement, social reinforcement, social support, self-contracting, contracting with significant other, shaping, reminders, self-help groups, and professional help.

    Although many techniques have traditionally been developed to deal with the consequences of stress, considerable research has also been conducted on the prevention of stress, a subject closely related to psychological resilience-building. A number of self-help approaches to stress-prevention and resilience-building have been developed, drawing mainly on the theory and practice of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

    Biofeedback may also play a role in stress management. A randomized study by Sutarto et al. assessed the effect of resonant breathing biofeedback among manufacturing operators depression, anxiety and stress significantly decreased.

    Stressors During Adulthood And Their Psychological Sequelae


    It is well known that first depressive episodes often develop following the occurrence of a major negative life event . Furthermore, there is evidence that stressful life events are causal for the onset of depression . A study of 13,006 patients in Denmark, with first psychiatric admissions diagnosed with depression, found more recent divorces, unemployment, and suicides by relatives compared with age- and gender-matched controls . The diagnosis of a major medical illness often has been considered a severe life stressor and often is accompanied by high rates of depression . For example, a meta-analysis found that 24% of cancer patients are diagnosed with major depression .

    Stressful life events often precede anxiety disorders as well . Interestingly, long-term follow-up studies have shown that anxiety occurs more commonly before depression . In fact, in prospective studies, patients with anxiety are most likely to develop major depression after stressful life events occur .


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