Vulnerability to Stress

The stress-disease relation

Research on stress disease, in general,brought evidence on the extent to which physical and social environmental factors affect health and linked stress to disease. Many diseases are not caused by what happens to us, but especially because of our inability to adapt, thus they are called “adaptation diseases”. Among these, the most common are ulcers, hypertension, coronary accidents and nervous system dysfunctions.

Not every event that causes a certain amount of stress on our body leads to illness, disease will occur only to those persons who aren’t able to adapt. Experiencing stress can be controlled by the individual coping skills and social support. Thus, events can be either successfully overcome, or will expose the individual to a permanent vulnerability to any event.

stress level

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Deficient evaluation of situations, characterized as psychological insecurity, is subject to the following personality factors:

– Distrust and pessimism;

– Proneness to egocentrism;

– Feelings of isolation and rejection;

– Fear of the future;

– Perceiving the others as being bad and the world, in general, as being horrible;

– Predisposition for unhappiness.

People with psychological insecurity have an emotional memory that holds especially failures, unpleasant and humiliating experiences.

Accordingly, vulnerability to stress is a feature specific to certain people to overreact to a variety of stressors.

Stress Coping Strategies

Every change in the range of stimuli trigger a specific stress, the body reacting physiologically and psychologically according to the genetic programs modulated by individual experience. Adaptation to stress is an active process through which the individual, relying on self-assessment of one’s activities and motivations, cope with stressful situations and manage to control them. These are also indirect adaptation strategies aimed only control the stress response, showing a short term efficacy, often leading to unwanted behaviors for the future of that person (alcohol abuse, sedatives, etc.).

Personal resources in coping strategies

Sense of coherence designates the organizing axis of the psychological balance of the individual resistant to the adversities of life. It is represented by features such as self-confidence, proper understanding of aggression as coming from outside or inside world, a good use of all personal and social resources.

Perceived self-efficacy represents the individual’s confidence in his own abilities to activate his inner cognitive and motivational resources, necessary for successfully accomplishment of a given task.  Self-efficacy is seen as a learned expectation of success. Thus, the behavior is controlled by self-efficacy. On the contrary, if a person has the perception of inefficiency in relation to the world, that person’s behavior will gradually become inhibited, withdrawn, and isolated.

Hardiness illustrates the resistance to stress in the most difficult life events. The three fundamental characteristics of people with increased hardiness are: control, commitment and accepting challenges as some incentives for achieving new personal discoveries about the potential of success. Hardiness creates optimal conditions for high value achievements even in situations that, at first glance, are not encouraging at all.

Self-esteem is the positive or negative subjective evaluation of the self. Derived from the interaction with the environment, it represents a result of previous experiences in which success or failure has a determining role. The perception of your value and your competence is fundamental for the way you will be able handle challenges and for defining your ability to manage stress.

If you value yourself and have a realistic perspective on your skills and competences, you can have a positive perception about yourself. This will help you to trust yourself when you face stressful situations. A positive self evaluation also reflects previous experiences with people who valued you, context that taught you to do the same with your own person.

If you feel worthless and incompetent, you will have less confidence in your ability to handle with the challenge in a productive way and this situation will cause distress. Unfortunately, in such cases it is obvious that you had the experience of being disconsidered by other persons who did not recognize your skills to solve different tasks.
Thus, our beliefs regarding our self can be in our benefit or, on the contrary, against us when we deal with stressful situations.
External resources in coping strategies

Social support plays an important role in counteracting the effects of psychological stress, leading to improved adaptation to stressful situations. Numerous studies have shown that having a network of supportive relationships contribute to our psychological well being. Thus, social support may bring you the following benefits:

  • sense of belonging: spending time with different people can help you remove loneliness and better adapt to distress;
  • increased self-esteem: having persons around you who consider you a friend can reinforce the idea that you are a good person to have around and whom is good to know;
  • sense of security: your social network facilitates your access to information, advice, guidance and other support that you may need. It is also reassuring to know that you have whom to call when you need.



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