Stress: Definition, Measurement, Factors of Influence

Definition of stress

Stress is a very common term in the field of psychology. Researchers have come up with different definitions of stress based on their understanding and the prevailing environmental factors. The definitions are so varied that some scholars have claimed that they may not have a specific definition. According to Contrada (89), stress refers to a condition of the mind where there is a feeling of strain or distress caused by a number of environmental stimuli. This scholar says that stress is normal in human beings, but when one is subjected to constant stress for a long time, the result can be devastating. It is for this reason that health professionals and psychologists are always forced to look for a solution to those suffering from stress. If not controlled in time, one can develop serious mental problems such as madness.

Experimental design to measure stress in human

Researchers have come up with various ways of measuring stress in human beings. Their measures are justified in one way or the other. However, if I have an opportunity to develop an experimental design to measure stress in humans, I would prefer to take a blood test to ascertain the level of stress an individual has. According to Praag (27), stress is a psychological problem that has a direct impact on physiological factors. In this particular experiment, the basis is on the fact that stress always affects the anterior pituitary. When one is under stress, there will be either an underproduction or overproduction of the pituitary hormones in the body. This happens when the anterior pituitary malfunctions uniformly making it overproduce or under-produce hormones. In such scenarios, the hormone level would be exhibited in the blood. In case of overproduction, the blood will have excessive hormones. When there is under-production, the blood will have a level of hormones that is below normal. Both cases demonstrate that such an individual is suffering from stress. I propose this design because it is more scientific. The healthcare practitioner or the psychologist would not be forced to listen to the explanations of the patient. A patient may fail to give a detailed and accurate state of his or her condition leading to the wrong conclusion. However, with this scientific design, accuracy will be guaranteed.

Factors that make life more or less stressful

Researchers have identified a number of reasons that may make life more stressful. One such factor is a financial strain on one who is responsible to a family. When a breadwinner in a family finds himself or herself in a position where he or she is not capable to deliver as per the expectations of the family, stress may develop. Another common source of stress is an unfriendly working environment where superiors demand more than what one can deliver. When the superiors constantly rebuke the output of an individual and demand that better results be given, stress can easily set in on such an individual. Such external environmental stimuli such as excessive sound, light, or impacts can also create stress. On the other hand, issues such as financial security lowers level of stress. When a person feels that he or she is able to meet the expectations of the family and the employer, the level of stress also goes down. The ability of an individual to share their life also lowers their stress levels.

Physiological processes involved in hypothalamus-anterior pituitary

As was mentioned above, stress is a psychological problem, which always triggers a number of physiological processes. When one is under stress, it interferes with anterior pituitary, which then develops a disorder. This disorder may result in either Sheehan’s or Prolactinoma syndrome. Prolactinoma syndrome would always result into a scenario where pituitary hormones are overproduced or under-produced. On the other hand, Sheehan’s syndrome causes uniform malfunctioning of anterior adenoma, which would be manifested in underproduction of all hormones. In order to determine if such a physiological process has taken place in a human being, a blood test would be necessary. The irregular presence of the hormones will be a confirmation that the physiological process in the hypothalamus has taken place.

Distinguishing between acute and chronic stress

Acute stress refers to a short-lived stress that one develops due to a sudden emergence of external stimuli, which in this case is defined as the stressor. It comes when one is faced with a scenario where there is pressure or demand to meet deadlines or act in a given way. In this case, the mechanism involves release of adrenaline to help an individual perform beyond ordinary levels. On the other hand, chronic stress is a long-term stress always caused by a situation, which has taken a long time without resolution. In this case, an individual experiences trauma due to this long-term stimuli. It is important to note that while in most cases acute stress can be beneficial in helping one achieve targets, chronic stress is always traumatic as it is associated with the past horrifying events. However, it is important to ensure any form of stress is eliminated before it affects a person’s mental health.

Works Cited

Contrada, Richard. The Handbook of Stress Science: Biology, Psychology, and Health. New York: Springer Publishers, 2011. Print.

Praag, Herman. Stress, the Brain and Depression. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.

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