Researchers have a hard time coming up with an acceptable definition of stress. Some view stress as a threatening or demanding situation which is a stimulus-based definition. A stimulus based definition of stress is that it causes certain reactions to occur because of a stimulus that stress creates. Other researchers view stress as the psychological reactions that happen when they are faced with a challenging or dangerous situation, which is a response-based situation. A response-based situation is the reaction to environmental circumstances.
Han Selye, an endocrinologist and famous stress researcher, defined stress as the reaction that the body has to any demand which is response-based. Stress is the process by which an individual recognizes and responds to events he/she feels are overwhelming or dangerous to his/her well-being. A stressor is how we judge a demanding or threatening event in our life. There are two types of stressors, primary and secondary appraisal. Primary appraisal is the judgment of the extent of potential danger to one’s well being while secondary appraisal is the judgment of the available options to cope. Potential stressors can be daily hassles, loud noises, harassment, working conditions, threats of physical violence, etc.
Eustress is associated with positive feelings making it a good type of stress. Distress is the opposite of eustress. It is when stress surpasses its optimal level and becomes debilitating. Stress invokes different responses that are physiological, cognitive, and behavioral. Health psychology emerged as a discipline in the 1970s. Health psychology is committed to understanding the psychological influence on health, illness, and people’s reactions when they become ill.
In the early 20th century, Walter Cannon came up with the fight-or-flight response after identifying the body’s response to stress. Some responses to the fight-or-flight stressor are dilated pupils, sweating begins, increased heart rate, etc. General adaptation syndrome is the nonspecific response the body has due to stress. There are three stages to general adaptation syndrome: first stage is the alarm reaction, the second stage is the stage of resistance, and the last stage is the stage of exhaustion. Sympathetic nervous system triggers the release of adrenaline. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis works more slowly than the sympathetic nervous system but is a lot more active.
Psychophysiological disorders are physical disorders as well as diseases whose symptoms that can be worsened by stress and emotional factors. Immunosuppression is when the immune system becomes exposed to infections, illnesses, and diseases. Psychoneuroimmunology was first coined in 1981 and is the study of how stress influences the immune system and immune functioning. Some disorders could be cardiovascular disorders and heart disease, symptoms are chest pains or discomforts. In 1937, Benjamin Malzberg recognized a connection between depression and heart disease. In the 1970s, Herbert Benson came up with a relaxation technique combined with meditation.