Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Relationship between Thinking Patterns and Physiological Symptoms of Stress

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Relationship between Thinking Patterns and Physiological Symptoms of Stress

Article excerpt

This study examines the relationship between thinking patterns and physiological symptoms of stress in individuals with an auto-immune syndrome. Using the Stress Processing Report (SPR), 216 females reported symptoms of stress, illness, and significant stressful life events. Scores on four dimensions (self, others, process and goals) were significantly lower in the individuals with the auto-immune disorder when compared to the control group of 277 females from the general population. The sample group was then divided into high and low stress groups by the number of subjective symptoms of stress reported. Scores were found to be significantly lower in the high stress group when compared to the low stress group. Results indicate that individuals with the auto-immune disorder have more dysfunctional thinking patterns than the general population, and that these patterns correlate with the severity of their subjective complaints.

The notion that the body has more natural healing ability than one may be aware of is prevalent today; and the implications of this awareness are changing lifestyles (Coleman & Gurin, 1993). One reason for this awareness is the fact that the vast majority of all current illnesses are caused by the way people choose to live their lives, as opposed to illnesses caused by bacteria or virus. Such lifestyle diseases include heart disorders, gastrointestinal disorders such as ulcers and colitis, arthritis, headaches, cancer, allergies, and skin disorders (Coleman & Gurin).

Several factors determine how an individual experiences stress: the individual's own feelings of competency (Leake, Friend & Wadhwa, 1999), the way an individual perceives (or thinks about) a particular event, the predictability of a potentially stressful event, the amount of control one has over the event, and the amount of social support available to an individual (Goleman & Gurin, 1993). The extent to which individuals have a negative view of these factors, the experience of stress and the resulting physiological symptoms (such as headaches, high blood pressure, arthritis, gastric or peptic ulcers, heart disease, and stroke) will be contributing factors. Additional research by Holmes and Rahe (1967) demonstrates that stress can be experienced as a result of positive as well as of negative events.

Stress not only directly affects the immune system, but is also one of the most significant contributing factors to the activity of an auto-immune disorder such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (Lupus Foundation of America, 1996). SLE is a complex disorder characterized by gross changes in one's immune system, and involves the production of large quantities of self-reacting antibodies. SLE is aggravated by physical and psychological stress, and is characterized by periods of remission and sudden acute "flare-ups" of disease activity (Aladjem, 1982). According to Solomon (1985), many of these flare-ups follow stressful life events or periods of physical exertion. Therefore, this particular autoimmune syndrome is ideal for this study. The physiological symptoms of stress most often associated with SLE include feeling fatigued, aching in joints, chest pains, unclear thinking, recurring fevers, muscle aches and pains and skin rashes (American Rheumatoid Arthritis Association, 1982).

METHODS

The current study analyzed the relationship between thinking patterns (the way one perceives a particular event) and physiological symptoms of stress in individuals with the auto-immune syndrome SLE. These symptoms include feeling fatigued, aching in joints, feeling faint, skin rashes, shortness of breath, muscle aches and pains, chest pains, cold hands or feet, unclear thinking, and recurring fevers. It was expected that, given a group of women with a diagnosis of SLE, the number of physiological symptoms of stress would be greater among this group. Specifically stated, there are differences between the thinking patterns of women with SLE and the thinking patterns of women in the general population. …

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