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Outline and evaluate theories and/ or into the relationship between stress and physical illness

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OUTLINE AND EVALUATE THEORIES AND/ OR INTO THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STRESS AND PHYSICAL ILLNESS Stress may cause physical illness directly as described in the GAS model or indirectly, because stress individuals are more likely to smoke or drink and these habits lead to illness. However, I am considering the illness called the weakening of the immune system. The immune system is a system of cells that is concerned with fighting intruders such as viruses and bacteria. White blood cells identify and kill foreign bodies (antigens). The GAS model proposed that stress leads to illness because the body's resources become depleted during extreme stress. This means that the essential proteins the immune requires to function properly cannot be produced by the body. Therefore the body is less able to fight viruses, bacteria and other toxins. However, in reality it is not possible for the body's resources to become depleted. Therefore, this is an unlikely explanation. The second and more likely explanation is that, the cortisol being produced directly suppresses the immune system. This happens because the cortisol decreases the production of lymphocytes and the antibodies. There are positive effects of suppressing the immune system. For example, cortisol is thought to reduce the body temperature and reduce inflammation. ...read more.


Clearly it would be important to reduce stress as far as possible in such patients and thus speed their recovery. This study was a field experiment. In field experiments the researcher is testing hypotheses in a similar way to the way it would be done in the laboratory. The main difference is that many of the extraneous variables the researcher would be able to control in the laboratory, are not able to be controlled in the field. One obvious advantage of the field study is that it is able to overcome the criticism that findings from laboratory settings are not general sable to the "real world". Field studies take place in this real world, so generalization is therefore not a problem - field studies are said to have high external or ecological validity. Some alternative studies include Cohen et al. (1993) used the 'viral-challenge' technique to study the effects of stress on over 400 volunteers. Individuals were exposed to the common cold virus and also given a questionnaire to access their levels of stress. Cohen et al found a positive correlation between the levels of stress and the likelihood of catching a cold. Shockingly, a study proved that the effects of stress may sometimes enhance the immune system - Evans et al (1994) ...read more.


It is possible that the cardiovascular patients might show signs of muscle ischemia and raised blood pressure when relaxed as well as when mildly stressed, and this would mean that stress was not the cause of the ischemia or raised blood pressure. In this case, the conclusions of the study would not be justified. Recent research suggests that the sympathetic branch of the ANS in some individuals is more reactive than in others (Rozanski et al., 1999). This would mean that some people (described as 'hyper responsive') respond to stress with greater increases in blood pressure and heart rate than others, and this would lead to more damage to the cardiovascular system in hyper responsive individuals. Later in this module we will look further at research into the relationship between individual differences and stress - at evidence that some types of people get more stressed and that they are more likely to have heart attacks and other cardiovascular disorders. Russek and Zohman (1958) looked at heart disease in medical professionals. One group of doctors was designated as high-stress (GPs and anaesthetists), while others were classed as low-stress (pathologists and dermatologists), Russek found heart disease was greatest among GPs (11.9% of the sample) and lowest in dermatologists (3.2% of the sample). This supports the view that stress is linked to heart disease, but it does not indicate whether the link is direct or indirect. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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