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Saturday, October 15, 2011

“Stress research has important implications in that it can advise us on how to manage our own and other stress reaction.” Discuss how research into the physiological response to stress has enabled the development of physiological approaches to reducing st

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This essay will explore the research that has been conducted into the physiological stress response. It will look in particular at psychologists such as Seyle and his extensive study into the physiological aspects of stress as well Glaser et al., who studied the link between stress and the immune system. Finally this essay will examine stress management in regards to reducing the physiological aspects of stress.


The first psychologist to examine the physiological aspects of stress was a man named Hans Seyle. Seyle is a significant figure in the history of psychology, made so by the model he produced in 156 known as the General Adaptation Syndrome. This model termed GAS focused mainly on the physiological aspects of the stress response. The model consisted of three main stages � Alarm reaction, Resistance and Exhaustion. The first stage of the syndrome (Alarm Reaction) was determined as being the stage in which the body’s level of arousal is heightened, the heart rate and blood pressure are increased, sugar stored by the liver is released into the blood to fuel the muscles, muscles become tense and alertness increases. This first stage of Seyle’s model has lead to many people becoming more aware of when they produce the symptoms of stress. Therefore many people try to control their stress levels by trying to control their symptoms. For example if a person notices that their breathing rate has deepened or they are sweating more, they will be able to recognise they are suffering from stress and will automatically try to breathe more slowly and relax more in order to prevent further symptoms of stress. Seyle went on to say that if the stress sufferer cannot deal with the stress in a productive way, they will experience stage three; exhaustion. This can lead to psychosomatic illnesses, such as ulcers and heart attacks.


In recent years drugs have been created to help suppress the symptoms named in the General Adaptation Syndrome. Anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines, which are manufactured under the names of Librium and Valium, are designed to decrease arousal and relieve the tension in the muscles, in an attempt to lower the risk .


There have been a lot of studies into how stress is linked to the physiological aspects of a person’s life. Glaser et al., 186 conducted a study of medical students (forty in total) who were about to take an exam. He found that six weeks prior to the exam, they had lower levels of stress than at the time of the exam. He also discovered that the number of T cells at exam time were lower than they had been previously. T cells are lymphocytes found in the blood that help to destroy the harmful bacteria and viruses. Glaser had therefore determined that stress had suppressed the immune system. These findings have led to the creation of a stress management method called biofeedback.


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Biofeedback is a physiological method of stress management. Biofeedback allows a person to supervise the interactions within their body and gives them a suitable degree of control over these processes/ interactions. Shapiro et al., 170 stated that biofeedback allowed participants to “make significant short-term changes in their biological processes” This could include raising their heart rate or lowering their blood pressure. Biofeedback has been used alongside relaxation techniques. From Seyle’s findings and model we have been able to determine that when a body gets stressed it becomes more alert and their level of arousal increases. In an attempt to reduce the stress levels, relaxation techniques have been developed that help to slow down some of the symptoms of stress such as deep breathing and alertness. They have also helped lower a person’s arousal level.


Another important development has occurred in reducing the risk of CHD. When a person becomes stressed it has been discovered that sympathetic branch of the ANS is stimulated, leading to the constriction of the blood vessels, resulting in a rise in heart rate and blood pressure. If the stress becomes prolonged, the arteries can become damaged. The narrowing of the arteries causes CHD; which is known as arteriosclerosis. An attempt has been made to educe the risk of CHD, in the form of drugs. Beta-blockers decrease the activity in the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system and so slow the heart rate and attempt to reduce the constriction. Thus resulting in lowering the blood pressure.


Finally, there have been various studies into how the endocrine system is connected to a person’s stress levels. It has been found that when a person experiences stress the endocrine glands secrete hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline. Anxiolytic drugs have been developed based on the findings related to the endocrine system. These drugs try to reduce the anxiety a person experiences due to the chemical (hormones) released in the endocrine system. An example of an anxiolytic drug is Barbiturates.


In conclusion, research into the physiological aspects of stress has proven very useful in the construction of methods to deal with stress. This research has provided the basis for further investigations into how to cope with stress and has been fairly successful in limiting or reducing the amount of stress felt by a person.





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