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Stress: The Unseen Killer

21 September, 2015 - 17:43


  1. Define stress and review the body’s physiological responses to it.
  2. Summarize the negative health consequences of prolonged stress.
  3. Explain the differences in how people respond to stress.
  4. Review the methods that are successful in coping with stress.

Emotions matter because they influence our behavior. And there is no emotional experience that has a more powerful influence on us than stress.Stress refers to the physiological responses that occur when an organismfails to respond appropriatelyto emotional or physical threats (Selye, 1956). 1 Extreme negative events, such as being the victim of a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or a violent crime, may produce an extreme form of stress known asposttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a medicalsyndromethat includes symptoms of anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, and social withdrawal. PTSD is frequently experienced by soldiers who return home from wars, with those who have experienced more extreme events during the war a lso experiencing more PTSD.

When it is extreme or prolonged, stress can create substantial health problems. Survivors of hurricane Katrina had three times the rate of heart attacks than the national average in the years following the disaster, and this is probably due to the stress that the hurricane created (American Medical Association, 2009). 2 And people in New York City who lived nearer to the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks reported experiencing more stress in the year following it than those who lived farther away (Pulcino et al., 2003). 3 But stress is not unique to the experience of extremely traumatic events. It can also occur, and have a variety of negative outcomes, in our everyday lives.