Posts archived in Psychology AS
April 29, 2013 by Cara Flanagan.
A team of Californian researchers, led by Susan Charles, recently published a study linking daily hassles to depression (Charles et al., 2013). A group of just over 700 participants were studied for eight consecutive days. On each day they reported daily hassles and also how negative they were feeling. Ten years later the same participants were re-assessed. The researchers found that those participants who experienced negative emotions on days with high levels of daily hassles were more likely to be depressed. This suggests that people who are stressed by their daily hassles are more likely to suffer from mental health issues later in life.
December 10, 2012 by Mike Cardwell.
Recently published research here in the UK has thrown up yet another problem with taking benzodiazepines – an increased risk of developing pneumonia, and of dying from it. Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia and so are a common way of managing the debilitating effects of stress.
Dr Robert Sanders and his team from University College London analysed the health records of almost 5,000 British patients with a reported diagnosis of pneumonia that had occurred between 2001 and 2002. They then compared these patients with a control group, matched for age and sex that had no history of pneumonia.
Sanders’ team compared the use of benzodiazepines in both groups. The findings indicated that the chronic use of benzodiazepines within the first group was associated with a 54 percent increased risk of developing pneumonia. Further analysis of the data revealed that the risk of dying within a month of being diagnosed with pneumonia was 22 percent higher among people taking benzodiazepines and 32 percent higher within three years after diagnosis. Read the rest of this entry »
October 8, 2012 by Cara Flanagan.
Here’s an interesting application of understanding stress. People who have spinal injuries usually lose control of their autonomic nervous system as well as their limbs, which means that their bodies do not respond to stress signals from the brain in the same way that normal people do – ‘normally’ an athlete, at the start of a race feels increased anxiety and the hypothalamus sends signals to the body to be prepared for fight/flight. Such arousal is important to perform well.
The bodies of people with spinal injuries don’t respond to such signals, so they have turned to a practice called ‘boosting’, where they intentionally break their toe or sit on their scrotum or something to generate pain signals that will kick start their body’s reaction to stress. The person will not feel any pain but blood pressure and heart rate will increase and performance improves. Not surprisingly the International Olympics committee has banned boosting for obvious health reasons. The problem is that some paralympic sports competitors don’t have injuries that disable their autonomic nervous systems so there are unfair disadvantages for those athletes. Nothing is simple.
April 11, 2012 by Cara Flanagan.
There are lots of articles on the web about managing your stress. Look at this or write your own suggestions.
March 30, 2012 by Cara Flanagan.
On page 30 there is a box for key terms. Under the pituitary-adrenal system it should say ‘adrenal cortex not adrenal medulla. And under the sympathomedullary pathway it should be adrenal medulla.
October 4, 2011 by Cara Flanagan.
A recent study by Ramona Scotland (just published) is described on a recent edition of Healthcheck (listen here). The study did involve animals but points clearly to significant gender differences – females have stronger immune systems which means they become less ill and recover faster. There is a downside because women are also more susceptible to more autoimmune diseases because their immune systems are more sensitive.
Such differences are important because most research is conducted using men and the assumption is made that the findings apply to all people. For example if a drug is tested on men it may not function in the same way with women.
January 27, 2011 by Cara Flanagan.
Free posters now available from OUP to brighten your classroom – you can start teaching from this straight away or use it as a revision tool with students.
The pictures are from the new AS Visual Companion.
The sales team who visit your school should have the posters.
Or you can write directly to Fiona.firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for one.
August 1, 2010 by Evie Bentley.
Women in our culture generally have richer social networks than men, and this observation has been used as part of the explanation for women coping better with stress and living longer. Now a meta-analysis has shown that a low number of friends, family, colleagues etc. in a person’s social network has similar negative effects on health and longevity as smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle or over-use of alcohol. The researchers say that their analysis was not able to differentiate between positive and negative social relationships, so having a good number of positive ones might give an even stronger effect on living healthier and longer!
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Medicine, 2010; 7 (7):
June 19, 2010 by Evie Bentley.
We’ve known for ages that far more females than males suffer from depression and anxiety disorders, but it is frequently hypothesised that this is not the true state of things. This is because, in Western industrialised cultures, it is more acceptable to admit vulnerability especially psychological vulnerability if one is female, not male. The macho nature of these cultures is, if you like, a confounding variable. However, there could be more to this than social and cultural relativism.
A recent interesting finding in rats shows that females are definitely more sensitive to stress. Their brain cells respond far more strongly to the precursor to corticosteroid stress hormones, a neurochemical called corticotropin-releasing factor, CRF. Female rat neurons are activated by CRF, male rat neurons adapt to it and less stress hormones are produced.
But does this rat behaviour also happen in humans? Well, we don’t know; but we do know that CRF regulation gets disrupted in human stress-related psychological disorders, so there could be a similarity, although one needs always to be very careful in generalising between species.