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To what extent have psychological approaches shown to be effective methods of stress management?

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Danielle White 12.1 April 5th 03 1. A) 'Sources of modern day stress are frequently psychological therefore it makes sense that attempts to deal with their effects should be likewise psychological in nature'. To what extent have psychological approaches shown to be effective methods of stress management? (18) Psychological approaches to stress are many and varied. The simplest psychological approaches to reducing stress are relaxation and mediation. In general, these are effective in reducing physiological arousal, however the effects can be short lasting unless mediation is a regular feature of the lifestyle. Stress involves each person's different perception and assessment of external events and internal thoughts and anxieties. So, the most effective strategies for permanently changing reactions to stressors involve changing perceptions as well as coping techniques. They call these cognitive-behavioural approaches. Kobasa (1986) is a good example of this. Kobasa said people who are psychologically more hardy find it easier to cope with stress. She thought it might be possible to train people to be more hardy. She made up a programme consisting of three techniques. Focusing, the individual is trained to identify signs of stress such as muscle tension and increased heart-rate, they can then recognize sources of stress. Reconstructing stressful situations, the individual is helped to analyse a recent stressful situation, concentrating on ways it could have come out better and ways it could have turned out worse. ...read more.


The approaches above aim to reduce stress by reducing the gap between the demands placed on a person and their perception of their ability to cope. By closing that gap, a person's confidence increases and the stress they feel is reduced. Social support has also been said to provide protection against stress. Kiecolt-Glaser (1984) found that students who had more social support suffered less reduction of their immune responses prior to their university examinations. Schaefer et al. (1981) argued that the term social support has two rather different meanings: * Social network: the number of people who are available to provide support. * Perceived support: the strength of social support that can be provided by these individuals. They both said that the extent of a person's social network and their perceived sense of support are positively linked. The role of control in the perception of stress also plays a part. A sense of control reduces the extent to which a situation may be experienced stressful. It has been suggested that control affects the immune system. Laudenslager et al. (1983) showed direct effects on the immune system. He used rats that were placed in three groups, one received controllable shocks, the second group were a "yoked" control (received the same shocks as the first rat, but they had no direct control over the shocks), a third group received no shocks. ...read more.


Another biological approach is Anti-anxiety drugs. The body produces chemicals (hormones) that create anxiety. This can be countered using other chemicals (i.e. drugs) that reduce anxiety. There are several different types of drugs that all work differently. Barbiturates are depressants of the central nervous system, and long-acting barbiturates are effective in reducing anxiety. However, they do have various side effects. They can create problems of concentration, lack of coordination, and slurred speech. They also tend to be addictive. Anxious patients who stop taking barbiturates report numerous symptoms such as delirium, irritability, and increased sweating. The problems with them led them to be replaced by benzodiazepines in the 1960's. These are the most used anti-anxiety drugs, such as Valium and Librium. They promote GABA, the body's natural relief of anxiety relief which reduces serotonin levels, which will in turn reduce arousal. Although, they are very effective and used by millions of people, they also have some of unwanted side effects. They often have sedative effects, and can make people feel drowsy. They can also cause cognitive and memory impairments, they sometimes lead to feelings of depression. Also, many people become dependent on benzodiazepines, and find it very hard to stop taking them. Sudden removal of benzodiazepines can lead to a return of the initial symptoms of intense stress and anxiety. Ants-anxiety drugs can be very effective at reducing feelings of stress. However, they do not address the problems that are causing stress. They help cope with stress but not to manage it. ...read more.

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