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Stress Essay

Next I will examine the theory of stress as a stimulus and consider how the notion of the stressful vents in the environment differs from the physiological approach. Finally I will conclude by analyzing the notion of stress as a transaction in comparison to the physiological and stress as a stimulus approach. Thinking of stress in terms of a response moves towards looking at physiological and biological explanations compared to what the stimulus (behavioral explanation) and transactional approach explain (Cognitive explanation).

The assumption of this approach is that stress place demands on an individual and as a result is manifested in some sort of response and potential illness. So this response is how the individual’s body would react towards the danger or stressful situation (Classes, 1974). Walter Cannon (1932) was one of the first early researchers to examine stress and how it impacts ones biological system. He concluded that although a person could withstand low-leveled stress, serve or reoccurring stress could lead to a breakdown in ones biological system.

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Cannon spoke about the ‘fight or flight’ response that was the human response towards a situation that was considered harmful. The typical response was one of physical arousal that could include increased heart rate r dry mouth. This physical arousal signified the release of adrenaline, which enables the body to respond to the threat either by running away or fighting the threat. Cannons reasoning was that this ‘fight or flight’ response was adaptive because of the quick responses towards the threat.

However it was also harmful because if the stress is chronic it has the ability to disrupt the emotional and physiological functions of the person that could lead to health problems. Cannons work was supported by his animal studies (Cannon, 1932); dogs and monkeys who were exposed to prolonged stress developed hydrochloric acid in the stomach. On the other hand, this method of analysis had its drawbacks since animal studies are less relevant for us now because we are not faced with threats from predators on a day-to-day basis that make us react without thinking due to this fight or flight response.

Despite this Hans Seller built upon the work of Cannon and believed that responses towards stress were universal and non-specific. For example the body would prod cue the same physiological responses regardless of what the stress was. His model is known as the ‘general adaptation syndrome’ (GAS; seller, 1956). The GAS theory that Seller (1974) proposed is comprised of three stages: alarm, resistance and exhaustion stage. Firstly the alarm stage is the immediate action, and is where the fight or flight response takes place.

The resistance stage is where the body tries to adapt, but if the stress continues then a person is still susceptible to disease since arousal levels remain high. Finally the exhaustion stage comes about if the resistance stage last too long since the bodies resources have been exhausted. As a result this is will most likely lead to a disease. This theory suggests that prolonged exposure to terrors will result in some sort of health problems due to the dysfunction that stress cause towards bodily functions.

However many have questioned this studies generalization, Mason (1971) argued that some stressful conditions do not produce the predicted three stages i. E. Such as exercising. Furthermore this shows that the GAS theory fails to consider individual differences in perception and how one responds to stress in terms of coping to. Ursine et all’s (1978) study supports the idea that an individual’s perception of a stress and their ability to cope is the main determinant of the neuroscience response pattern. Meaning that a person’s perception influences the body response towards stress, highlighting the importance of individual differences.

It seems that Kyle’s work is questionable; nevertheless he believed that the idea of stress as a response was so complex that us humans would never be able to understand it (Seller, 1950). This suggests that Seller struggled to understand stress, most probably due to the lack of resources and research that was available during his time topic. In turn this shows the need for more research On the other hand psychology is something that is forever expanding so rather research can give us a broader understanding of stress.

The limitations of this theory show that there is a need to cooperate psychological understanding as well as physiology understanding of stress. With regard towards stress as a response another approach is thinking of stress as a stimulus this allows researchers to focus on events that are stressful and the environment. For example a person will associate tension that they have experienced towards a particular event that could be a wedding. Researchers that take this approach study how stress impact individuals and groups. This includes looking at catastrophic events such as floods or most commonly looking at major life events.

The Life events theory is one of the earliest approaches that measured stress. It originated in the ass’s by Holmes and Rare (1967) who published a checklist of life events that they called the Social readjustment rating scale (SIRS). They claimed that life events had cumulative effects on an individual. Therefore the greater number of major life events that an individual experienced the more likely they were to suffer from physical health problems. This checklist included 43-items which intended to represent moon situations such as personal, family and financial that required a person to change or adjust.

Each item had a Life change unit (LOCI) score depending on how traumatic it was and adjustment needed. This idea of the change or adjustment being stressful is central to the life events theory, since it focuses on changes rather than reoccurring events. Holmes and Massed (1974) reported that the experience of a life crisis was linked to problems in physical health. For example 79 percent of people that experienced a major crisis reported changes in their physical health. Other tidies such as Rare (1974) found that the greater the LOCI score was the higher the risk of health related problems.

However this theory has a number of problems that need to be addressed which may account for some of the early positive results found. Firstly a problem arises with the issue of how two people could have the same LOCI score, but both have totally different levels of subjective experience. Drenched et al, 1990 found that serious injury and injury events ranged from severe heart attacks and the flu to having a sprained arm. This variability is an example of how different events represent very different types of actual experience; this problem has been labeled as ‘interrogatory variability (Drenched, 2006).

In addition to this there are methodological issues such as reliability that have come into question. An example of this is seen in Steele et all’s (1980) study that repeats the measure after 1-2 weeks. Results from this show that only 70 percent of people maintain the same LOCI score across the board. The results suggest that the scores that have been measured from the original SIRS are not reliable, suggests that the overall measure could possibly be inadequate since the results are not likely to be consistent. Despite this there have been improvements that have addressed the methodological issues as stated above.

For example there are scales that can be used for specific subgroups such as children and adolescents. Additionally further research has taken within Asia that suggests gender differences between stress and life events (Donating, Lee & Koki, 1996; Grant et al, 2004). Other scales have tried to overcome the previous checklist limitations by conducting semi-interviews where participants describe in full their life event experiences by trained individuals. One example is the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule (LEEDS), which Brown and Harris (1978) developed.

This following evidence shows the important development that has taken place with the Life events theory and the improvements that have been made. Life events theory has a number of strengths, such as the fact that it has shown us that major events can have a huge impact towards ones health. The approach is easy to understand and offers a simplistic approach in terms of the data available and it has a large amount of empirical evidence to support it. However the fact that it is very simplistic is one of the main sources of its robber since there were many unanswered questions concerning the reliability, validity of the original scale.

Despite the research of major life events, research has highlighted the importance of daily hassles in regards to stress. One of the biggest critics towards Lazarus believed that stress stemmed from hassles that were reoccurred everyday (Lazarus, 1990). Unlike major life events daily hassles do not require a major adjustment, however its impact is dependent upon how frequent the hassle occurs. Some studies have shown that hassles can be a much better predictor of health elated problems compared to major life events (Canner et al 1981; delousing 1982).

This was because Canner et al (1981) believed that hassles were able to capture the stress process more effectively because most research concerning hassles focuses upon the occurrence of minor changes or signs of stress such as colds rather than focusing upon long-term effects such as the previous literature on life events. In comparison to the methodology in the original SIRS (Holmes and Rare (1967) Canner and colleagues distinguished between positive events which they called ‘uplifts’ and negative events which was called ‘hassles’.

A further strength of this measure was that Canner studied three subgroups which included – students, professionals and middle-aged and they found that each of the groups differed according to different events. This strengthened the results because Canner was able to see how the perception of individuals could change and the way people appraised situations. This is an example that the mindset of an individual changes overtime and begins to move the whole stimulus view towards stress approach away from its reductionism approach that only focuses on the environment to a more holistic view that considers more than just the environment.

Daily hassles explain stress much more appropriately than major life events theory, however there is very little empirical evidence to support it. Despite much criticism the approach still remains as a dominant force in explaining stress in comparison towards the physiological approach. Not to mention the fact that there have been modifications towards the methodology which has improved its reliability and validity. Nevertheless both the Physiological approach and stress as a stimulus approach underestimate the complexities of human behavior i. E. Unman perception and more cognitive role. The next part Of this essay will address stress from a more cognitive process, which is Richard Lazarus’ (Lazarus & Folkway, 1 984) stress as a transaction theory. One major critic of the life events research was Richard Lazarus as stated above, who believed that life events research tended to focus on major life changes whilst ignoring the fact that great amounts of stress stems from reoccurring problems called hassles (Lazarus, 1990). Lazarus’ (1966; Lazarus & Folkway, 1 984) suggested a new approach called the ‘transactional theory’ of stress.

This work focused on the importance of psychological processes rather than just placing importance on stress in the environment like the life events research. Evidence concerning the importance of psychological processes came from the early work that Lazarus was a part of (i. E. Spaceman et al 1 964), which simply exposed students to stressful films while monitoring their self-reported stress levels and physiological arousal (i. E. Heart rate). Although this study was measuring ‘ego defenses’, Lazarus come to the realization that the process of appraisal was mediating the stress responses, subsequently this was how his theory developed.

Lazarus takes the view that stress is a transaction between the characteristics of the individual and appraisals, the stress that could be internal or external event and the internal or external resources that the individual has to deal with the event (Lazarus, 1993). In any given situation that has the possibility Of a stressful encounter a person may appraise the situation as one that is harmful and threatening or they may view it as positive and something like a challenge.

This is what Lazarus described as the primary appraisal process, when a person considers the nature and quality of the stimulus event. Events that are not appraised as any of the following above ARQ Eire no further action from the person. At the same time the type of appraisal that a person has will determine how they cope with the situation. This is what Lazarus describes as the secondary appraisal process where a person assesses their resources and ability to deal with the current event (stress)(Lazarus, 1990).

Lazarus is describing a relationship that is consistently changing between the individual and the environment, and his work suggests that the phenomenon of stress is complex since it involves many variables associated with appraisals and opining. On the other hand Lazarus fails to mention the importance of control over coping important to recognize that ones perceived control over the situation could determine how well they cope with the stressful event. Bandeau (1977) describes this as self-efficacy, which is Ones belief that they can execute a particular behavior or in this case cope with the relevant stress.

However Lazarus (1990) did improve upon his approach by introducing the idea of emotions. He claimed that stress was part of the ‘rubric’ of emotion, in that by studying emotions he believed that there would be a greater understanding of the stress process since emotions and thoughts affect each other. Furthermore the transaction approach has been useful in developing understanding of the processes involved with stress. Lazarus (1990) addresses the study of stress as ‘doomed to failure’ if it were to focus on one single measure of stress.

He argues that stress needs to be measured differently in order to capture different aspects concerning the process of stress. In turn, this the theory has led to the development of the measure known as the ‘hassle scale’ by Canner et al, (1981 The transactional theory has also en used as a basis for work concerning stress and nurses and coping processes (All & Laramie, 2010; Manumits et al, 2009). These implications highlight the impact that Lazarus’ theory of stress and coping has had on the development of psychology.

Despite this, Lazarus’ theory has been criticized for its circularity. This is seen in the lack Of evidence to explain the interaction between primary appraisals and secondary appraisals i. E. Perceived demands and coping capacity. There is no separate definition for the demand and coping capacity (Hobble, 1989). This makes it hard to distinguish between the cause and response, for example whether an event is demanding depends upon perceived coping and whether you can cope depends upon how one perceives the demand.

Another problem with this approach is that it is unclear whether both primary and secondary appraisals are necessary and whether one can just work independently. Sahara and Dana (1999) found positive mood outcomes to be mainly affected by ones ability to cope and not by the nature of the event (primary appraisal). However it could still be argued that because of the circularity of the approach (Hobble, 1989) the true cause of the positive mood outcomes is uncertain since a person has to perceive the demand to be able to respond with a coping mechanism.

Such findings suggest that further research needs to be conducted into Lazarus’ theoretical framework, since the assumption that demands need to outweigh ones ability to cope in order for stress to be experienced is still unclear. Nevertheless Lazarus’ theory has been the basis for many other theoretical frameworks and has developed our understanding of the psychology of stress. In conclusion, by examining the general ways of looking at the notion of tress and analyzing the merits of each.

Based upon the evidence presented, Lazarus’ transactional approach is most effective due to its multifaceted nature in comparison to the physiological approach and stress as a stimulus. Due to the fact that it includes ideas of not only the cognitive processes that take place within a stressful situation but also acknowledging the role of the stimulus within the environment and emotional responses. Furthermore it also provides the strongest basis of understanding that we have on stress due to the large amount of empirical evidence supporting it.


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