Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Risk Behavior as a Reaction on Uncontrollable Stress

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Risk Behavior as a Reaction on Uncontrollable Stress

Article excerpt

A problem of risk and prevention of human risk behavior is one of the major problems in health psychology. In this essay risk is understood as the possibility of negative health outcomes occurring as a result of specific behavior practices. Risk behavior patterns can be basic for a lot of diseases. Smoking, alcohol and drug use, uncontrollable sexual behavior and more seldom professional overwork, high functional and psychic loads leading to somatic and mental diseases are mentioned as the examples of health risk behaviors (Shaboltas, 2004).

Theoretical concepts explaining the mechanisms of risk behaviors are based mainly on social-cognitive approach (Bandura, 1986). According to this approach behavior is a derivate of two interdependent and inter-conditioned factors - external and internal. Age-related and personality characteristics, specific character of biological, emotional and cognitive processes, attitudes and beliefs, subjective assessment of various behaviors riskiness are considered as internal factors. Psychologists pay special attention to studying correlates of risk behaviors. One of the best investigated personal characteristics associated with susceptibility to risk-taking is sensation seeking (Zuckerman, 2006). This characteristic of personality determines individual ways of coping with everyday routine boredom, as well as adventurism in different spheres of life. A widespread form of high risk predisposition is taking up "extreme" kinds of sport. Extremeness is considered as high possibility of getting harm in case of failure. Sport psychologists face the fact that people's motivation to go in for such sports is connected with their general susceptibility to risk-taking. A person striving for risk in one situation will also strive for risk in other situations. Extreme sports as substitution let such people satisfy this need and consume their high energy potential. In conditions of adequate safety level this kind of leisure activities could be considered as prevention of risk behaviors in other areas of life. All people can be placed on the continuum with the poles of two types: "risky" and "cautious". Risky people tend to influence others, to strive for leadership; they have a high level of aspiration. Cautious people prefer to obey; they are more conservative and indecisive. The other individual characteristic associated with risk behavior is a belief (attitude) towards personal future. In everyday life such beliefs are divided into optimistic and pessimistic. People with positive views about their future use more measures focused on providing safety and health care than people who demonstrate negativism. Such qualities as impulsivity, achievement motivation and low self-control are also referred to psychological risk correlates.

Individual ways of coping and resistance in stressful situations are particularly topical for studying and correction. A stressful situation is objectively an external factor of personal behavior. Thereby, a choice of individual strategies of stress management is highly determined by previous personal experience and individual psychological characteristics. Such risk behavior models as alcohol use, drug use, unsafe sex, adventurist strategies and tactics in professional activity are very often conditioned by stress avoidance and a low level of personal adaptation to stress.

The concept "stress" was introduced by Hans Selye who understood it as nonspecific adaptive systematic response reaction of human or animal to any stimuli (Selye, 1956). Nowadays it is emphasized that stress is a response reaction to new stimuli (Zhukov, 2007). It means that a stressful reaction develops in an organism when it faces unknown conditions or problems. In a new situation without a habitual, ready i.e. formed earlier program of action human or animal uses the so called displacement reactions at behavioral level. The displacement reaction is a behavioral reaction which was formed in other situations in order to satisfy other needs and it does not correspond to the actual need (Tinbergen, 1951). …

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