Biopsychology of Stress

Currently, stress is among the social constraints that constitute characteristics of human life. The latter has negative implications on an individual’s well-being or performance of an organization. Stress has become inevitable and may not be escaped by any person. Scientists, precisely, psychologists, have emphasized studies related to causes, effects, and remedies for stress. It has become crucial for the modern generation to have an in-depth insight into what stress entails. Stress was perceived as external pressure emanating from the external surroundings of a person. The latter arises from the interaction between a person and undesired life situations. The essay will be dedicated to analyzing stress, effects of stress on the body and behavior, and the models for understanding stress.

Psychologists and physiologists have maintained that a healthy human body must exist in a state of functional balance. Anything that interferes with such body balance may be described as a stressful situation, such as pain, strenuous exercise, infection, injury, and fear. The human body reacts to stress in three phases: the alarm phase, followed by the resistance phase whereby once the body fails to correct the imbalance, the exhaustion phase follows (Scott and Howard 259).

Notably, the alarm phase begins when the eyes and ears send signals to the brain’s hypothalamus. The hypothalamus system would then trigger immediate responses from the nervous system by turning sympathetic division on. Ozbakkaloglu et al. argue that the SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) would trigger the release of adrenaline hormone from the adrenal cortex in the kidneys (1084). The hormone would then travel faster in the body to increase the pulse rate, increasing blood pressure. The victim’s skin may turn pale due to vasoconstriction; blood is channeled more quickly to the body muscles.

Moreover, blood vessels supplying fluid to the kidneys and intestines may also shrink (Scott and Howard 259). The hypothalamus may also trigger the secretion of the insulin-regulating hormone to influence the increase of blood sugar. As a result, the body may start sweating, characterized by the erection of hairs on the body (Folkman 839). The victim may then prefer to fight the situation or run away. These events explain why the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) has been referred to as a “fight or flight” response. The resistance phase is the next stage of body response to stress, during which any damage or imbalance caused by the stress is fixed. For instance, if the body tissues were damaged (bleeding) during the incidence of stress, adrenaline hormone would initiate the release of antidiuretic hormone (ADH); the hormone would then correct body fluid balance by limiting the frequency of urination (Ozbakkaloglu et al. 1079).

Chronic stress may trigger the exhaustion stage. The latter is characterized by increased blood pressure (hypertension) or arteriosclerosis. However, cortisol works to maintain adequate blood sugar in the body. Furthermore, suppression of the immune system may present negative implications to the inflammatory systems. Chronic stress may expose an individual to depression, which is a risk factor for cardiac complications and obesity or diabetes.  As such, stress has negative implications on the immune system of the body.

Nonetheless, chronic stress may cause further problems, for example, social isolation, a decrease in sexual urge (libido), poor performance at work, and deterioration of body weight due to loss of appetite in some situations. Stress can cause absenteeism, frequent strikes, accidents, decreased productivity, and restlessness in the workplace.

Folkman did extensive research on workplace-related stressors. On one of their encounters, Ann Donaldson (psychotherapists) narrates Norman’s case, 22 years of age (839). Norman had been employed as a receptionist in a busy health facility. As such, HE had to work for more than 45 hours weekly. Due to work overload, he had decided to stay away from work for over 30 days. However, on his return to work, it was noted that Norman had mobility difficulties, characterized by awkward balance and gait (AbuAlRub 76). His doctor had recommended treatment for depression and anxiety, restlessness and difficulty in sleeping. Generally, Norman’s production at work demonstrated a deteriorating trend. Additional findings on the case study reveal that Norman had poor interpersonal relationships with co-workers (Folkman 839). Besides, he seems overwhelmed by workload pressure, harassment, and long working hours (Fisher 79). The case study has highlighted some cause of workplace stress and their effects on behavior and job performance.

The GAS model is a theory for understanding stress, which is credited to Hans Selye. The Hungarian endocrinologist pioneered the model in 1907-1882. According to AbuAlRub, the model explains stress in three basic stages: the alarm phase, resistance stage, and the final phase known as the exhaustion stage (77). The theory posits that the body responds to stress by preparing for a defensive action (fight), after which it assumes normal balance. However, chronic stress leads to the exhaustion stage whereby an organism may run away (flight) from the perceived stressor. This stage may damage the body tissues, high chances for coronary heart disease, depression, irritability, and a decline in life energy. In extreme situations, chronic stress may result in death (Lupien et al. 434). However, the model has been supported as well as criticized sensible grounds.

Proponents of the theory have maintained that the model was the first scientific effort in describing how the human body responds to stress. Moreover, the theory has been credited to the rationale that is most suitable for some of the traditional stressors that may physically present themselves as threats, such as traumatizing ordeal (Attridge 394). Supporters of the model have also claimed that it raised a positive alarm in medicine to examine the link between illness and stress.

On the other hand, opponents of the theory have argued that the model ignores physiological constraints like gender and personality. The model may not be suitable for understanding all stress. In essence, people have varying amounts of cortisol and adrenaline, which influence an individual’s perception of stress (Ozbakkaloglu et al. 1072). The final critique is based on the argument that the model has based much evidence on animals rather than humans. Besides, it generalizes ideologies underpinning problems brought forth by stress.

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Arguably, the SRRS stress model was credited to the works of Rahe and Holmes in 1964. The theory was inspired by the need to examine the effects of stressor on health and behavior. Seemingly, the SRRS theory architects discovered that certain life events could be linked to poor health, for example, hypertension and stress (Scott and Howard 259). They maintained that life dynamics might influence stress hence illness. As part of their empirical evidence, Rahe and Holmes did their research on 5000 patients and only managed to gather 43 cases with positive feedback. The evaluation process involved subjecting participants to questionnaires that lead them to life events experienced within 12 months. Participants would then add the average of their life events to create LCU (Life Change Unit Score).

The theory has been argued for on the following grounds. According to Hunter and Thatcher, the claim that stressful life events decrease immunity is more sensible and appealing (961). The theory may be useful in identifying daily life hassles. However, the model has been criticized for the argument that the model is somewhat ambiguous and confounding.

Stress can cause serious health complications, for example, PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). As such, there is a need for therapeutic interventions. The most common therapy is PTSD therapy, which is recommended to improve stress symptoms, teach the victim skills to deal with stress, and restore self-esteem (Hunter and Thatcher 958). More specifically, most therapies regarding PTSD have been classified under CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). The latter involves personal engagements between the patient and therapist, whereby the victim discloses the details of traumatizing events encountered in the past (Attridge 387). Such kind of engagement may help the victim in reevaluating his/her original perceptions of stressing events.

In conclusion, it may be said that stress has negative implications, both on health and economic advancement. As such, researchers have pioneered several theories to help shed more light on the perceptions, including common controversies around stress. The views include but are not limited to GAS (General Adaptation Syndrome) and SRRS (Social Readjustment Rating Scale). According to the theories, stress may come from internal or external sources, such as workplace factors or family constraints. On the other hand, internal sources include poor health status and self-criticisms. In people, stress symptoms include depression, irritability, chest pains, hypertension, and excessive alcohol consumption; such factors may lead to mental illness and heart diseases. The problem may be detected in an organization through increased absenteeism, industrial-related technicalities, decreased production, and poor product qualities. Such factors may affect prolonged strikes, frequent accidents by machine operators, and apathy.


Works Cited

AbuAlRub, Raeda Fawzi. “Job Stress, Job Performance, and Social Support Among Hospital Nurses.” Journal of nursing scholarship, vol. 36, no. 1, 2004, pp. 73-78.

Attridge, Mark. “Measuring and Managing Employee Work Engagement: A Review of the Research and Business Literature.” Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, vol. 24, no. 4, 2009, pp. 383-398.

Fisher, Shirley. Stress and Strategy. Routledge, 2015.

Folkman, Susan. “Personal Control and Stress and Coping Processes: A Theoretical Analysis.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 46, no. 4, 1984, pp. 839.

Hunter, Larry W., and Sherry M.B. Thatcher. “Feeling the Heat: Effects of Stress, Commitment, and Job Experience on Job Performance.” Academy of Management Journal, vol. 50, no. 4, 2007, pp. 953-968.

Lupien, Sonia J., et al. “Effects of Stress Throughout the Lifespan on the Brain, Behaviour and Cognition.” Nature reviews Neuroscience, vol. 10, no. 6, 2009, pp. 434.

Ozbakkaloglu, Togay, Jian C. Lim, and Thomas Vincent. “FRP-Confined Concrete in Circular Sections: Review and Assessment of Stress–Strain Models.” Engineering Structures, vol. 49, 2013, pp. 1068-1088.

Scott, Robert, and Alan Howard. “10. Models of Stress.” Social Stress, 2013, pp. 259.