Chronic, as well as acute emotional arousal, is a consequence of various types of social interaction, i.e., those between mother and infant and between controlling dominant and less effective subordinate. The neurohumoral accompaniments of this social stress include the sympathetic adrenal medullary and hypothalamic pituitary adrenal responses. A common ensuing pathophysiological state involves a chronic increase of blood pressure. Although Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome presupposed the same response to a variety of stimuli; recent work shows that specific perceptions of control result in different patterns of neuroendocrine activation. A challenge perceived as easy to handle will elicit an active coping response and release of the neurosympathetic system’s norepinephrine. Testosterone will rise as the subject savors success. With increasing anxiety this active coping shifts to a more passive mode and the behavior becomes less assured as the animal loses control. The norepinephrine/epinephrine ratio decreases as epinephrine, prolactin, renin and fatty acids rise. As the outcome becomes still less certain and distress grows, adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol levels arise. Thus, the effort required on the one hand and the degree of frustration conflict and uncertainty on the other, determine the ratio of catecholamines to corticoids. With severe emotional trauma, brain dysfunction may occur. These effects can be lasting, and corticoids paradoxically return to normal as the behavior changes to that of post-traumatic stress disorder. Repression and denial set in and the organism responds with decreased concern of impaired attachment and increased irritability.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adams, N., & Blizard, D.A. (1987). Defeat and cardiovascular responses.The Psychological Record, 37, 349–368.
American Psychiatric Association. (1987). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed. rev.). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association Press.
Arnold, L.E. (1990).Childhood stress. New York: Wiley.
Benus, I. (1988). Aggression and coping: Differences in behavioral strategies between aggressive and non-aggressive male mice. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Gronigen Holland.
Bjorntorp, P. (1987). The association between obesity, adipose tissue distribution and disease.Acta Medica Scandinavica, 723, 121–134.
Buck, R. (1988). Central nervous system mechanisms of motivation and emotion. InHuman motivation and emotion. New York: Wiley.
de Boer, S.F. (1990).Dynamics of stress hormones in the rat. Modification by psychological factors and anxiolytic drugs. The Netherlands: University of Utrecht. Department of Psychopharmacology/Physiology.
de Boer, S.F., De Beun, R., Slangen, J.L., & Van der Gugten, J. (1990). Dynamics of plasma catecholamine and corticosterone concentrations during reinforced and extinguished behavior in rats.Physiology and Behavior, 47, 691–698.
Dunn, A.J., & Kramercy, N.R. (1984). Neurochemical responses in stress. Relationships between the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and catecholamine systems. In L.L., Iverson, D.S. Iverson, & S.H. Snyder (Eds),Handbook of psychopharmacology Vol. 18, (pp 455–515). New York: Plenum Press.
Engel, G.L., & Schmale, A.H. (1972). Conservation-withdrawal: A primary regulatory process for organismic homeostasis.Physiology, Emotion and Psychosomatic Illness, Ciba Foundation Symposium, 8, 57–76.
Ferris, C.F., Foote, K.B., Meltser, H.M., Plenby, M.G., Smith, K.L., & Insel, T. (in press). Oxytocin in the amygdala increases maternal aggression. In C.A., Pedersen, J.D., Caldwell, G., Jirikowski, T.R., Insel (Eds),Oxytocin in Maternal, sexual and social Behaviors. New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Fokkema, D.S., & Koolhaas, J.M. (1985). Acute and conditioned blood pressure changes in relation to social and psychosocial stimuli in rats.Physiology and Behavior, 34, 33–38.
Folkow, B. (1985). Stress and blood pressure in adrenergic blood pressure regulation. Current Clinical Practice Series. Birkenhager, W.H., Folkow, B., Struyker Boucher, H.A.J. Amsterdam Exerpta Medica, pp 87–93.
Gold, P.W., Goodwin, F.K., & Chrousos, G.P. (1988). Clinical and biochemical manifestations of depression: Relation to the neurobiology of stress.New England Journal of Medicine, 319, 413–420.
Goldberg, J., True, R., & Henderson, J. (1990). A twin study of the effects of the Vietnam war on posttraumatic stress disorder.JAMA, 263, 1227–1232.
Henry, J.P., & Stephens, P. (1981). Psychosocial stress induces tubulointerstitial nephritis unrelated to hypertension in CBA mice.Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, 8, 483–487.
Henry, J.P., Stephens, P.M., Axelrod, J. & Mueller, J.A. (1971). Effect of psychosocial stimulation on the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis and metabolism of noradrenaline and adrenaline.Psychosomatic Medicine, 33, 227–237.
Henry, J.P., & Stephens, P.M. (1977).Stress health and the social environment: A sociobiological approach to medicine. New York: Springer Verlag.
Henry, J.P., & Meehan, J.P. (1981). Psychosocial stimuli, physiological specificity and cardiovascular disease. In H. Weiner, H.A. Hofer, & A.J., Stunkard, (Eds.),Brain behavior and bodily disease (pp. 305–333). New York: Raven.
Henry, J.P., Stephens, P.M., & Ely, D.L. (1986). Psychosocial hypertension and the defense defeat reactions.Journal of Hypertension, 4, 687–697.
Henry, J.P., Haviland, M.G., Cummings, M.A., Anderson, D., Nelson, J.C., MacMurray, J.P., McGhee, W.H., & Hubbard, R.W. Neuroendocrine aspects of alexithymia among alcohol-dependent men. Submitted for publication.
Henry, J.P., & Meehan, W.P. (in press). Psychoemotional hypertension in animals. In Johnson, E.H., & Julius S. (Eds).Personality, elevated blood pressure and essential hypertension. New York: Hemisphere Press.
Holst, D.V. (1986). Vegatative and somatic components of tree shrew’s behavior.Journal of the Autonomic Nervous System, (suppl.), 657–670.
Julius, S. (1988). Interaction between renin and the autonomic nervous system in hypertension.American Heart Journal, 116, 181–185.
Koolhaas, J., & Bohus, B. (1989). Social control in relation to neuroendocrine and immunological responses. In A. Steptoe, & A. Appels (Eds),Stress personal control and health. New York: Wiley.
Lundberg, U., & Frankenhaeuser, M. (1980). Pituitary-adrenal and sympathetic-adrenal correlates of distress and effort.Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 24, 125–130.
MacLean, P.D. (1990).The triune brain in evolution: Role in paleocerebral functions. New York: Plenum.
Mason, J.W., Maher, J.T., Hartley, L.H., Mougey, E.H., Perlow, M.J., & Jones, L.G. (1976). Selectivity of corticosteroid and catecholamine responses to various natural stimuli. In G. Serban (Ed.),Psychopathology of human adaptation, (pp. 147–171). New York: Plenum.
Mason, J.W., Giller, E.L., Kosten, T.R., & Harkness, L. (1988). Elevation of urinary norepinephrine/cortisol ratio in posttraumatic stress disorder.Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 176, 498–502.
Mason, J.W., Giller, E.L., Kosten, T.R., & Yehuda, R. (1990). Psychoendocrine approaches to the diagnosis and pathogenesis of PTSD. In E.L. Giller (Ed.),Biologic assessment and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.
Nixon, P.G.F. (1982). Stress and the cardiovascular system.The Practitioner, 226, 1589–1598.
Pedersen, C.A., Caldwell, J.D., Jirikowski, G., & Insel, T. (in press).Oxytocin in maternal, sexual and social behaviors. New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Rebuffe-Scrive, M., Walsh, U.A., McEwin, B., & Rodin, J. (1992). The effect of chronic stress on regional distribution of fat. Submitted for publication.
Sapolsky, R.M. (1988). Individual differences and the stress response. In Mechanisms of physical and emotional stress. Chrousos, G.P., Loriaux, L. and Gold, P.W. (Eds).Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 243: 399–412.
Selye, H. (1936). A syndrome produced by diverse noxious agents.Nature, 138, 32–34.
Selye, H. (1974).Stress without distress. Philadelphia, Lippincott.
Seligman, M.E.P. (1991).Learned optimism. New York: Knopf.
Smelik, P.G. (1985). Stress and hormones.Organorama, 22, 16–18.
Stock, G., Schlor, K.H., Heidt, H., & Buss, J. (1978). Psychomotor behavior and cardiovascular patterns during stimulation of the amygdala.Pfleuger’s Archives, 376, 177–184.
Stock, G., Passfall, J., Schultz, B.G., Kluge, W., Lambertz, M., & Langhorst, P. (1988). Suppression of baroreceptor function by the amygdaloid complex at the level of the nucleus of the solitary tract.Journal of Hypertension, 6(supp 4), S738.
Suh, B.Y., Liu, J.H., Rasmussen, D.D., Gibbs, D.M., Steinberg, J., & Yen, S.C. (1986). The role of oxytocin in the modulation of ACTH release in women.Neuroendocrinology, 44, 309–313.
TenHouten, W.D., Hoppe, K.D., Bogen, J.E., & Walter, D.O. (1986). Alexithymia: An experimental study of cerebral commissurotomy patients and normal control subjects.American Journal of Psychiatry, 143, 312–316.
Vander, A.J., Henry, J.P., Stephens, P.M., Kay, L.L., & Mouw, D.R. (1978). Plasma renin activity in psychosocial hypertension of CBA mice.Circulation Research, 42, 496–502.
Van der Kolk, B.A. (1987).Psychological trauma. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.
Wolff, C.T., Hofer, M., & Mason, J.W. (1964). Relationship between psychological defenses and mean urinary 17-Hydroxycorticosteroid excretion rates 11 Methodologic and theoretical considerations.Psychosomatic Medicine, 26, 592–609.
Zeitlin, S.B., Lane, R.D., O’Leary, D.S., & Schrift, M.J. (1989). Interhemispheric transfer deficit and alexithymia.American Journal of Psychiatry, 146, 312–316.
About this article
Cite this article
Henry, J.P. Biological basis of the stress response. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science 27, 66–83 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02691093