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Chapter 17 - Stress and Health

Stress and Health

  • Behavioral Medicine- interdisciplinary field that integrates behavioral and medical knowledge and applies that knowledge to health and disease
  • Health Psychology- subfield of psychology that provides psychology's contribution to behavioral medicine

What is Stress?

  • Stress- the process by which we perceive and respond to events, called stressors, that we appraise as threatening or challenging
  • General Adaptation Syndrome- Selye's concept of the body's adaptive response to stress as composed of three stages
  • Phase 1-Alarm reaction
  • Phase 2-Resistance
  • Phase 3-Exhaustion

Stressful Life Events

  • Catastrophic Events- earthquakes, combat stress, floods
  • Life Changes- death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, promotion
  • Daily Hassles- rush hour traffic, long lines, job stress, burnout
  • Perceived Control- loss of control can increase stress hormones

What is Stress? (Part 2)

  • Burnout- physical, emotional and mental exhaustion brought on by persistent job-related stress
  • Coronary Hear Disease- clogging of the vessels that nourish the heart muscle; leading cause of death in the US

Stress and Coronary Heart Disease

  • Type A- Friedman and Rosenman's term for people who are competitive, hard-driving, impatient, verbally aggressive, anger-prone
  • Type B- Friedman and Rosenman's term for easygoing, relaxed people

Stress and Disease

  • Psychomatic Disease- psychologically caused physical symptoms
  • Psychophysiological Illness
  • "mind-body" illness
  • any stress-related physical illness
  • distinct from hypochondriasis- misinterpreting normal physical sensations as symptoms of a disease
  • Lymphocytes- two types of white blood cells that are part of the body's immune system
  • B lymphocytes form in the bone marrow and release antibodies that fight bacterial infections
  • T lymphocytes from the thymus and, among other duties, attack the cancer cells, viruses and foreign substances

Promoting Health

  • Aerobic Exercise- sustained exercise that increases heart and lung fitness; may also alleviate depression and anxiety
  • Biofeedback- system for electronically recording, amplifying, and feeding back information regarding a subtle physiological state
  • Blood pressure
  • Muscle tension


  • 14% of US Gross Domestic Product is spent on health care
  • 2/3 of organizations with less than 50 employees have health promoting programs
  • health assessments
  • fitness training
  • smoking cessation
  • stress management


  • Some estimations show smoking kills about 20 loaded jumbo jets per day
  • Smoking is a pediatric disease
  • Rebellious youth
  • Modeling behavior, social rewards
  • Targeted ad campaigns
  • Why not quit? Nicotine delivery system

How to Quit

  • Education
  • Eliminate the social reinforcement
  • Increase social support for quitting
  • Cost
  • Tax it to shorten the time between behavior and punishment
  • Reduces smoking by 4% for every 10% increase cost
  • Nicotine Replacement -Patch and Gum
  • Reduce pharmacological addiction
  • Then treat psychological addiction


Myers, David G., Psychology Fifth Edition. Worth Publishers, Inc. New York, NY ©1998

Subject X2: 

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