causes of stress

Topics: Anxiety, Perception, Causality Pages: 5 (1491 words) Published: October 29, 2014

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Causes of Stress

"Situations, circumstances or any stimulus that is perceived to be a threat is referred to as a stressor, or that which causes or promotes stress." (Brian Luke Seaward)
The causes of stress are known as stressors and there are literally hundreds of different types of stressors.  Any event in life that a person finds threatening, difficult to cope with or causes excess pressure can be a potential cause of stress.  It is important to bear in mind that stress is an individualistic, subjective experience and therefore what one person finds stressful another may not.  Stressors can be broken down roughly into either external or internal (or a mixture of both.)  

1. External Stressors
a) Major Life Events
Research by Psychiatrists Drs Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe revealed a list of common causes of stress that most people would find stressful.  They called this scale the Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment Scale.  The scale is a list of 45 stressors each given a number of points, with the most stressful at the top of the list (death of a spouse) and the least stressful at the bottom of the scale (a minor violation of the law).  The research indicates that if your total score is more than 150 points the chances are that it could have an impact on your health.  A score of over three hundred points in one year indicates that you have a high risk of developing a stress related health problem. One of the weaknesses of the Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment scale is that it doesnt take into account the individuals personality, their perception of how difficult the stressor is, nor does it take into account how long the stressor continues for; the scale just gives a single number for each stressor.  However, it s known that the longer a stressor continues, then the more likely it is to cause stress and that the individuals perception of an event is the key to whether they will find a situation stressful or not.  For example, if a person is happy living in their house, theyve lived there for a number of years, have developed close friends in the area and do not want to move but are forced to move because their home is being repossessed, then they are going to find the event of moving infinitely far more stressful than a person who has lived in their home for a short time, next to a very noisy, difficult neighbour and who wants to move to get away from the noise.  To help overcome some of the drawbacks of the Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment scale Professor Cary Cooper, of The University Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), has upgraded it by allocating a scale of 1 - 10 points for each event, so allowing a persons perception of how stressful the event is, to be taken into account.  We have included a copy of Professor Coopers modified version in the course materials for you to view and use.  

Click here for Cooper's Life Stress Inventory 
b) Daily Hassles
"Any idiot can face a crisis its this day-to-day living that wears you out." (Anton Chekov) The majority of causes of stress that we face on a day-to-day basis are not as extreme as life events.  The day-to-day causes of stress are called daily hassles; they are those daily, minor irritations such as misplacing our car keys, traffic jams, minor arguments with family/colleagues, etc.  Research by Lazarus and Folkman (1984), at the University of California, indicated that it was the daily hassles rather than the major life events that affected us the most.  Life events do not occur every day, but daily hassles do; its the constant, daily frustration caused by these hassles that cause us the most stress, because they occur so regularly and therefore can undermine our health.  

Some Examples of Daily Hassles...
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