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HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY - I II III HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY The field of...

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I. HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY The field of health psychology investigates the relationship between psychological, behavioral, and social processes and physical health. A goal of health psychologists is to apply their research to prevent illness and promote better health. II. STRESS Stress is the negative physical and psychological adjustment to circumstances that disrupt, or threaten to disrupt, a person's functioning. Stress always involves a relationship between people (stress reactions) and their environments (stressors ). Mediating factors affect the severity of stress reactions. Examples of mediating factors include perceived control over stressors, available social support, and quality of stress-coping skills. A. Psychological Stressors Both pleasant and unpleasant events or situations can cause stress. Catastrophic events that are life-threatening, such as assault, combat, fire, and tornadoes, can lead to serious psychological disorders. Life changes and strains can be stressors, especially if they force a person to adapt. Examples of such changes include divorce, marriage, bad grades, graduation, a new job, a promotion, and death. Daily hassles, such as minor irritations, pressures, and annoyances, when experienced regularly, can act as stressors. B. Measuring Stressors Several ways of measuring stress have been developed based on the premise that stress is a process that requires a person to make some sort of life adjustment. One instrument, called the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, measures stress in terms of life-change units (LCUs). Research suggests that people who experience a greater number of LCUs are more likely to suffer physical and mental illness. The Life Experiences Survey (LES), another instrument for measuring stress, also considers an individual's perceptions of the positive or negative impact of a given stressor. By examining perceptions of stress, the LES is able to measure the role that gender and cultural differences play in experiences of stress. III. RESPONSES A. Physical Responses 1. The General Adaptation Syndrome. The general adaptation syndrome (GAS) is a stress response composed of three stages. a. Stage 1. The fight-or-flight syndrome (FFS), or alarm reaction, is the first stage. The sequence of events causing the FFS is controlled by the sympatho-adreno-medullary system (SAM); the hypothalamus triggers the sympathetic ANS, which stimulates the adrenal medulla, which in turn secretes catecholamines into the bloodstream.
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