Our behavior as well as exposure to prolonged stress can increase our susceptibility to serious ill-
ness. Health psychology provides psychology’s contribution to behavioral medicine. Among its
concerns are the effects of stress and how to control stress, how our emotions and personality
influence our risk of disease, and the promotion of healthier living.
Walter Cannon viewed our response to stress as a “fight or flight” system. Hans Selye saw it
as a three-stage, general adaptation syndrome. Modern research assesses the health consequences
of various life experiences. Coronary heart disease has been linked with the anger-prone Type A
personality. Stress may also affect the progression of other serious illnesses, including AIDS and
Several factors affect our ability to cope with stress including our feelings of personal control,
our explanatory style, and our supportive connections. Stress management programs include train-
ing in aerobic exercise, biofeedback, and relaxation. Although biofeedback can sometimes help
people control tension headaches and high blood pressure, simple relaxation exercises offer some
of the same benefits. Researchers seek to identify “intervening variables” that may link spirituality
In attempting to reduce cigarette smoking, psychologists have studied the social influences
that motivate adolescents to start smoking and the reinforcers that maintain the habit. In studying
obesity, psychologists have found that a number of physiological factors make it difficult to lose
weight permanently. Those who wish to diet should minimize exposure to food cues, boost energy
expenditure through exercise, make a lifelong change in eating patterns, and set realistic goals.
Introductory Exercise: Fact or Falsehood?
Project: Constructing a Family Health History
Discovering Psychology, Updated Edition: Health, Mind, and Behavior
Identify some behavior-related causes of illness and death, and describe health psychology’s con-
tribution to the field of behavioral medicine.
Prolonged stress and unhealthy behavior contribute to heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic
lung disease, the four leading causes of death in the United States today. By studying how our
emotions and personality influence our risk of disease, the effects of stress, and the promotion of
Stress and Health