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Stress and Anxiety Response: How do you cope?

Stress and Anxiety Reaction Page #1


Stress and Anxiety Response: An Overview

Your stress and anxiety response will need to be evaluated by taking a closer look at the kinds of situations that normally make you feel threatened in your daily life. By putting your stress and anxiety response in the context of your experiences, you should then have some sense of whether they are appropriate or exaggerated, to the degree that they may be considered an anxiety disorder. Whenever we feel some degree of threat or are faced with demands or opportunities that cause us to feel a need to change, we feel a certain amount of stress. The state of stress has two components, the stressor, or event that creates the demands, and a stress response, the personís reactions to the demands. These two components have a tendency to increase the arousal of the central nervous system, resulting in a feeling that many define as anxiety. Exaggerated, high levels of anxiety which is inappropriate to the related circumstances, or which causes dysfunctions in daily life have been referred to as anxiety disorders. But, as you can see, some level of stress and anxiety is a normal part of our daily life.


The normal hassles we experience in life lead to some level of stress and anxiety. These may include transitional points in our life as well as issues related to poverty, poor health, graduation or marriage. Also, more traumatic events such as major accidents, assaults, tornadoes or military combat may also result in some level of stress and anxiety. Our response to these stressors is influenced by the way we appraise both the events and our capacity to react to them in an effective way. Usually, when people sense that they can effectively deal with circumstances, they have a tendency to take stressors in stride and respond constructively. In short, an individualís response does not depend on the nature of the stressor, but reflects one's past experience, behavioral skills, self-concept, social support and biological factors.

When a stressor seems threatening, we respond with the natural reaction of fear. Fear is actually made up of several responses including physical, emotional and cognitive. Physically we perspire, our breathing quickens, our muscles tense and our hearts beat faster. Turning pale, developing Goosebumps, and feeling nauseated, are some of the other physical reactions. Our emotional response to extreme threats may include horror, dread, and even panic. Our cognitive response can even disturb our ability to concentrate, and may distort our view of the world. Some people may even exaggerate the harm that threatens them and remember things inaccurately after the threat has passed.

These factors of the stress and anxiety response are produced by the action of the autonomic nervous system, which is the extensive network of nerve fibers that connects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) to all of the other organs of the body. The autonomic nervous system helps to regulate involuntary activities such as breathing, heart beat, blood pressure, and perspiration.

Stress and Anxiety Reaction Page #2

Some information from DSM-IV-TR Mental Disorders Diagnosis, Etiology & Treatment By Michael B. First and Allan Tasman

Additional information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

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