Whether caused by a job termination or simple day-to-day traffic, stress is seen daily in the human life. While it is possible for every person to be affected by stress, the outcomes are clearly different for each individual. Personality differences also can cause stressors to vary between persons. While stress is inevitable within lives and has the potential to affect individuals physically, psychological research has shown that it is also possible to cope with.
One of the most difficult aspects of stress is simply the definition. Taylor (1999) defines stress as “a negative emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological, cognitive, and behavioral changes that are directed either toward altering the stressful event or accommodating to its effect” (p. 168). Simply stated, stress how a person’s body reacts to a negative occurrence within their life. Pitts and Phillips (1991) speak of stress as an independent variable, while the changes within behavior would be considered the dependant variable (p. 30). Sheridan and Radmacher (1992) write that stress may be described as either a stimulus or a response depending on how one views the situation (p. 148). Many sources agree that stress affects each and every person differently. Within a stressful situation, an individual evaluates a situation and chooses an appropriate response. It is possible for two individuals to choose completely different reactions to similar stressors. Clearly, each individual has a different relationship with their environment and various resources to deal with events, therefore would respond differently. In order to try to further define the term stress and understand individual responses, it is extremely important to look at the causes of stress.
In order to differentiate between the cause and effect, Selye used the term stressor to describe the event involved (Sheridan & Radmacher, 1992, p. 149). While many events have the prospective to be considered stressful, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and ambiguous events are more likely to cause stress (Taylor, 1999, p. 177). In 1977, Lazarus and Cohen categorized stressors into three separate groups. The first group was called Cataclysmic stressors. These events affected larger groups of people at the same time and are considered unpredictable occurrences with an influential impact. Some examples include wars or natural disasters, such as hurricanes. The following group was referred to as Personal stressors. As the name says, these stressors affect the individual. These stressors can be extremely difficult due to the lack of support. Holmes and Rahe created Social Readjustment of Rating Scale, a stressor scale to specifically measure this type of stress. Lastly, Lazarus and Cohen categorized events into a group called Background stressors. These stressors would include the daily bothers of life. Some simple examples of this type of stressor would include a noisy workplace or a traffic jam
The events that cause stress within our lives and the way each person copes with that is drastically different throughout different individuals. One theory, by Walter Cannon in 1932, is a common explanation of how individual persons deal with stress is the “fight or flight” response. This theory holds the idea that when faced with a stressful situation, we either deal with the consequences, or we flee from the situation. Depending on the individual and the situation the response may vary and it is difficult to predict the reaction of an individual (Taylor, 1999, p. 431). Selye writes a lot about the topic of diversity among individual. First he makes clear that individuals will react similarly to situation even if the stressors differ. As a population, individuals will respond differently, even if the stressor is the same His General Adaptation Syndrome shows the aspects of Seyle’s theory regarding response. The theory has three parts: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Within each step...
Cited: Sheridan, Charles L., Radmacher, Sally A. (1992). Health Psychology: Challenging the Biomedical Model. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Pitts, Marian, Phillips, Keith. (1991). The Psychology of Health: an Introduction. London: Routledge.
Taylor, Shelley E. (1999). Health Psychology. Singapore: McGraw-Hill.
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