Type A Behaviour and health

Excessive, frequent and prolonged release of noradrenaline is thought to increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, migraine and ulcers. Type As usually over-react to challenges and threats and, faced with a demanding situation, they over-activate their sympathetic nervous system, releasing much noradrenaline. The dangers of this were outlined in Chapter 5.

Unfortunately, self-induced stress in Type As often distorts their perception and they fail to recognize what is happening to them. However, not all Type As succumb to the ill effects of stress. It has been suggested that a personality factor described as ‹“hardiness’ (stress resistance) interacts with Type A Behaviour to minimize its risk to health. Hardy people look upon situations as challenges rather than threats. They have commitment to what they do and feel confident about gaining control. They turn stressful life events into possibilities or opportunities for personal growth and benefit. More research is needed in this area to clarify the involvement of hardiness with stress and health.

The stress generated by Type A Behaviour is avoidable by modifying beliefs, attitudes and habits. This is dealt with in Chapter 13.

Some stressors are unavoidable and will affect most of us at some time during our lives. These are, often referred to as life events and are crises that must be faced for example, illness and injury to yourself, family and friends, and bereavement. Other crises may occur, such as marital disharmony, problems with children, financial difficulties and work problems. There are also events that require some adjustment on our part, such as moving to a new house, changing jobs, children starting school.

Our stress response is activated to help us deal with these changes, events and crises. However, research has shown that if we experience too many life events during a short period, our adaptive and coping resources may be overtaxed and this can lead to ill health.

Complete the questionnaire on the next page to assess whether your life events are putting you at a higher risk of ill health.

The Life Events scale was developed by researchers in the United States while undertaking a study to establish which events occurring during a person’s life required the most readjustment. Forty-three life events making up the questionnaire were selected as being the most common and stressful. You will notice that some events, such as illness and bereavement, are traumatic and likely to give rise to distress whereas others, such as marriage, birth of a child or moving house, might be expected to be pleasant and enjoyable experiences. However, they all require a change in the person’s life as they readjust to the new situation.

You will see on page 207 that each event is given a score on a scale from 0 to 100. The scores are based on how much adjustment people felt they needed to make in order to cope with each situation, if getting married is rated at 50 points. As expected, most people rated death of a spouse at the maximum score of 100 whilst at the other end of the scale, Christmas was valued at 12 and minor violations of the law 11. Subsequent research using this scale showed that those people who scored over 100 points in their previous year had an increased risk of suffering a major illness during the next two years.

Even though these types of stressors are unavoidable, our beliefs and attitudes can play a major part in how we perceive them and how much stress, if any, we experience. For example, bereavement is undoubtedly a major stressor but our religious beliefs may reduce the stress experienced.

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