The general adaptation syndrome occurs when an organism is exposed to a stressor. It has three stages. In the alarm stage, an organism recognizes a threatening situation. The sympathetic nervous system is activated, giving rise to the fight-or-flight response. Digestive processes slow down, blood pressure and heart rate increase, adrenal hormones are released, and blood is drawn away from the skin to the skeletal muscles. In the resistance stage, which occurs when stress continues, physiological arousal stabilizes at a point that is higher than normal. If stress is prolonged, the organism reaches the exhaustion stage. The body’s resources get used up, and physiological arousal decreases. In this stage, organisms are more susceptible to disease.
In the first pathway, the hypothalamus of the brain activates the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system, which in turn stimulates the adrenal medulla. The adrenal medulla releases catecholamines, which results in the fight-or-flight response. In the second pathway, the hypothalamus sends signals to the pituitary gland. The pituitary releases ACTH, which in turn stimulates the adrenal cortex. The adrenal cortex then releases corticosteroids, which give a boost of energy and reduce tissue inflammation in case injuries occur.
Type A people have higher pulse rates, blood pressure, and hormone levels when faced with stress. The release of stress hormones can cause hardening of the arteries over time. Furthermore, type A people may encounter more stressors. For example, because of their behavior toward other people, they may be more likely to have marital stress and work-related problems. As a result, type A people may be less likely to have friends they can turn to when they are in trouble or under stress. Finally, type A people also smoke more and consume more caffeine instead of exercising and focusing on healthy living.
First, people sometimes don’t understand the instructions they are given. People also may not follow treatment regimens if they are unpleasant or interfere significantly with daily routines. Finally, people may not follow advice if they are displeased about their interactions with their health care provider.
People who are optimistic are more likely to find social support, appraise events in less threatening ways, take good care of themselves when sick, and use active coping strategies that focus on problem solving.
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