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How Stressors Are Perceived

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How Stressors Are Perceived
399
Stress Mediators
LIFE HANGING IN THE BALANCE
Symptoms of burnout and posttraumatic
stress disorder often plague firefighters,
police officers, emergency medical personnel, and others who are repeatedly
exposed to time pressure, trauma, danger, and other stressors (Fullerton,
Ursano, & Wang, 2004). Posttraumatic
stress disorder can also occur following a
single catastrophic event. Surveys taken
in the weeks and months following the
terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center revealed that 7.5 percent of adults
and 10.6 percent of children who lived
near the devastated area experienced
symptoms of PTSD. Even higher rates of
PTSD symptoms were reported by adult
survivors of the massive tidal waves that
devastated south and southeast Asia in
2004. (DeLisi et al., 2003; Galea, Ahern, et
al., 2002; Galea, Resnick, et al., 2002;
Hoven et al., 2005; Simeon et al., 2003;
van Griensven et al., 2006).
Stress is also thought to play a role in the development of many other psychological disorders, including depression and schizophrenia (e.g., Cutrona et al., 2005). This
point is emphasized in the chapter on psychological disorders, especially in relation to
the diathesis-stress approach to psychopathology. This approach suggests that certain
individuals may be predisposed to develop certain disorders but that whether or not
these disorders actually appear depends on the frequency, nature, and intensity of the
stressors the people encounter.
Stress Mediators
䉴 Why doesn’t everyone react to stressors in the same way?
The ways in which particular people interact with particular stressors can be seen in
many areas of life. The stress of combat, for example, is partly responsible for the errors
in judgment and decision-making that lead to “friendly fire” deaths and injuries in
almost every military operation (Adler, 1993). But not everyone in combat makes these
mistakes. Why does stress disrupt the performance of some individuals and not others? And why does one individual survive, and even thrive, under the same circumstances that lead another to break down, give up, and burn out? The answer may lie in
psychobiological models, which recognize the importance of psychological, as well as biological, factors in the stress process (Folkman et al., 2000; Suls & Rothman, 2004; Taylor,
2002). These models emphasize that, as shown in Figure 10.1, the impact of stressors
depends not only on the stressors themselves but on several important mediating
factors as well (Bonanno, 2004, 2005; Kemeny, 2003; McEwen & Seeman, 1999).
How Stressors Are Perceived
As described in the chapter on sensation and perception, our view of the world depends
partly on how we interpret sensory information. Similarly, our physical and psychological reactions to stressors depend somewhat on how we think about them, a process
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