The effect of acute behavioral stress on neuroendocrine function and mood / Patricia Marie Furlan.

Furlan, Patricia Marie.
x, 177 p. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- Psychology.
Psychology -- Penn dissertations.
Many studies have documented abnormalities in the physiological system that modulates the response to stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, in physical disorders and in psychiatric disorders. Relatively few studies have investigated the acute response of ill populations to stress occurring in everyday life. An expanded understanding of the acute stress response may contribute to more effective treatments for stress-related disorders. This thesis compared the stress response of normal healthy people to naturalistic behavioral stressors to people diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder (social phobia). After first determining the optimal time of day to administer stressors, the normal stress response was characterized by exposing healthy volunteers to stressors from three domains: physical exercise, problem solving and delivering a speech. The stress response was measured by assessing levels of salivary cortisol and by recording the subjective assessment of the tasks. After characterizing the normal stress response, patients with social phobia were participated in physical exercise and in the speech task. The patient responses to the task were compared to those of healthy matched controls. The results indicate that people diagnosed with social phobia demonstrate altered responses to a speech stress but not to physical stress. Specifically, social phobia patients exhibited either attenuated or exaggerated cortisol levels following participation in the speech task. This thesis provides information for an increased understanding of social phobia and for the development of the concept of the stress response. First, the results of this study provide new insight into the maintenance and treatment of social phobia. Second, the abnormal endocrine response to stress seen in the psychiatric disorder of social phobia suggests that the response to stress may be altered in other disorders. The technique developed in this thesis can be applied as a tool to investigate this question. Finally, the results question a generally accepted beliefs that an increase of cortisol is sufficient to indicate the subjective experience of stress and that an increase in cortisol necessarily indicates a harmful event for the overall functioning of the organism.
Supervisor: Irvin Lucki.
Thesis (Ph.D. in Psychology) -- University of Pennsylvania, 1999.
Includes bibliographical references.
Local notes:
University Microfilms order no.: 99-37723.
Lucki, Irvin, advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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