Outline and evaluate research into the effectiveness of physiological stress management techniques [12 marks]
Stress has become a major issue in recent years and few topics have received so much attention. In the workplace stress has become a major concern of managers and Company bosses following successful litigation by employees claiming harm done by unnecessary exposure to stress. Stress management or stress reduction is now a multi-million pound business and many methods of coping have been devised, some with more success than others.
Drugs used to manage stress were once called ‘minor tranquillisers’. However, they are now known as ‘anxiolytics’. The effect of all anxiolytics is to reduce heightened physiological activity without inducing tiredness. Originally, barbiturates were used to manage stress. However, they have been gradually replaced by other drugs.
Benzodiazepines (BZs) increase the activity of a chemical called GABA. GABA increases the uptake of chlorine ions at the synapse which prevents other neurotransmitters being so effective. This acts to reduce the activity of other neurotransmitters such as serotonin. By increasing the activity of GABA, BZs therefore dampen activity and arousal of neurons in the CNS.
Unfortunately GABA reduces activity in about 40% of the brain’s neurons so doesn’t just effect stress pathways. As a result BZs have a number of side effects.
Side effects include increased aggression, depression, drowsiness, memory loss (particularly laying down new memories in LTM) and various other cognitive deficits such as learning. Fortunately, many of these effects are only temporary.
Beta blockers (BBs) slow down activity in the sympathetic branch of the ANS by reducing levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. This has two positive effects; it reduces heart rate and blood pressure etc. and because it is difficult to feel stressed when your heart isn’t pumping away like a mad ‘un, it helps to make us feel calm.