Biological Methods of Stress
• Stress management is the attempt to cope
with negative effects of stress through the
reduction of the stress response
• Biological stress management is aimed at
reducing the biological effects of stress
• E.g. reducing the fight or flight response
through the use of drug therapies
• Use page 136 of your textbook to draw a
picture of a synapse in the square box of your
Beta Blockers (BBs)
• Reduce activity of adrenaline and noradrenaline
which cause increased heart rate and blood
• Bind to receptors on the heart and other parts of
the body stimulated during the sympathetic
nervous system
• Therefore it becomes harder to stimulate cells
• As a result the heart beats slower, blood pressure
is reduced and a person becomes less anxious
Benzodiazepines (BZ’s)
• These are most commonly used to treat anxiety
and stress
• E.g. Valium and Librium slow the activity of the
central nervous system
• GABA is a form of natural anxiety relief
• BZ’s enhance the action of GABA so excitatory
• This makes a person calmer
• BZ’s also reduce serotonin activity
Strength or Weakness?
1) Effective in combating the effects of stress
One way that effectiveness is assessed is through
comparing outcomes
e.g. One group is given a drug and another is given a
This enables us to determine whether the effectiveness
of a drug is due to pharmacological properties or
something psychological
Strength or Weakness?
1) Treating the symptom rather than the problem
The effects of drugs only last while a person takes a
drug – as soon as they stop the effectiveness
This is not useful for chronic stress, therefore it
may be better to seek a treatment that
addressed the problem itself
Strength or Weakness?
1) Addiction
BZs have more recently been identified with problems of
Patients taking low doses of BZs show marked
withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them
Therefore there is a recommendation that BZ use should
be limited to a maximum of 4 weeks (Ashton, 1997)
Strength or Weakness?
1) Ease of Use
A benefit of using drugs for stress is that the
therapy requires little effort from the user
Only have to take pills which is less time
consuming and less effort compared to
psychological methods
Strength or Weakness?
1) Supporting Research
Kahn et al (1986) followed nearly 250 patients
over 8 weeks and found that BZs were
significantly superior to a placebo
Hildago et al (2001) in a meta-analysis of
studies found that BZs were more effective
at reducing anxiety than other drugs
Strength or Weakness?
1) Side Effects
Side effects of BZs include increased
aggressiveness, impairment of memory
especially in terms of long-term memory
Beta blockers tend not to have side effects

Biological Methods of Stress Management