Shared Flashcard Set


MA in everyday Life ch5
Microaggressive Stress Impact on Physical & Mental Health

Additional Psychology Flashcards




  • microinsults & microinvalidations often come from catch-22 created by double messages
  • the internal conflict betw implicit, explicit messages create stressful situations because
  • #1 it fosters confusion betw the overt msg & 1's experiential reality
  • #2 it implies perpetrators are not true friends or allies
  • #3 it alters an important personal, social, or professional relationship with perpetrators
  • #4 it places targets in an inevitable position of ascertaining when, where, how to resist oppression vs when to accommodate it
  • while microassults threaten the physical, microinsults, microinvalidations attack the self-esteem, belief systems, R, G, SO identity of targets
  • the early general adaptation syndrome GAS model devloped by Selye explains the body's reaction to biological stressors; it has 3 stages: alarm, resistance, exhaustion

The alarm stage represents a call for arms of the body's defenses when invaded the response is heightened physiological reactivity that invloves rapid heartbeat, loss of muscle tone, decreased temp &BP, increased corticoid hormone secretion quickly ward off invaders

  • Like the alarm stage when a MA occurs, the person becomes vigilant, attempts to determine whether his/her integrity or identity is being attacked; there is initial confusion with ambiguity of incident, but warning signs about the offensive race-gender-SO-related communication are deciphered

The resistance stage- if exposure to biological stressor continues, the adaptation or resistance stage follows. the body mobilizes resources to defend against, destroy, or coexist with the disease. symptoms appear fever, sore throat, infected tissues swollen, weaken immune system

  • the parallel psychological process involves feelings of anger, anxiety, guilt, depression, etc-marginalized group member can also coexist with MAs by accepting them as a reality of their life
  • the psychological toll may not be visible asap yet the internal struggle with MAs can fester & eat away at integrity of the person for long periods of time-lifelong

The exhaustion stage -continued stress on the body will lead to this stage ultimately leading to death. symptoms may become worsen as body weakens& begins to shut down

  • physical activity decreases, psychological depression, lowered desire for life, narrowing, decrease in cognitive functioning, alertness, withdrawal from social situations
  • chronic MAs stressors have often wear down the target; they often describe feelings of exhaustion or a depletion of energy; all social, academic, occupational functioning will suffer
  • DelaFuente proposes that psychological & social stressors activate a similar internal process within the cognitive, emotional, behavioral makeup of the person
  • His model Crisis Decompensation model CDM has 3 stages: impact, attempted resolution, decompensated adjustmt

impact stage

  • of a crisis induces confusion & disorientation - EV expressed bewildermt, had hard time understanding what & why it happened
  • anxiety, guilt, anger, dissociation, depression are common emotional reactions
  • as compared to a MA- the impact of MA initially cause confusion & disorientation

attempted resolution

  • all the resources of the victims are mobilized to deal with the situation - coping strategies & other available resources often determine the outcome-social support from significant others was crucial to successful resolution
  • DelaFuente found that successful coping led to a precrisis level of functioning & at times growth adjustmt phase
  • with MAs - marginalized groups resolve their internal conflicts using specific strategies & internal resources

decompensated adjustmt

  • if coping is unsuccessful, victims enter this phase marked by withdrawal, depression, guilt, apathy, anxiety, anger, physical illnesses
  • likewise unsuccessful coping with MAs may lead to lowered sense of well-being, heightened physiological reactivity with biological consequences & psychological problems
  • the MA process model assumes that MAs are stressful, that stress-coping dynamics described in GAS & CDM models are similar & that significant harm can result unless mitigated thru effective coping or external intervention

challenge 1-everyday hassles & stress

  • subtraumatic stressors-employmt problems, marital distress, immigration adjustmt-shown to be stressful
  • small, everyday events-moving to new place, driving to work, breakup, job change -create stress, impact health, personal adjustmt
  • point even small demands produces stress

Life change & stress

  • life change & cumulative impact also cause stress-LCM assumes that all changes acts as stressors & the accumulation of small changes can sum into potent form of stress
  • researchers created an instrument Social Readjustmt Rating Scale SRRS which rank events to potential stress value & life change units LCU could be calculated for ranking of daily hassles they encounter over time
  • major finding-although minor life changes & daily hassles were not sufficient alone to constitute a serious stressor, the cumulative impact of many events could be considered a crisis
  • the GAS, CDM, LCM models of stress place minimal emphasis on the person's subjective definition or interpretation of stressful events or life changes
  • MAs invoke strong assessmt & appraisal process that moderates the reactions or outcomes
  • the thoughts & interpretations we make about the stressor, the emotions we attach to them, the actions taken to avoid them can either increase or decrease the impact of stressors
  • Richard Lazarus proposed a transaction model of stress based on the notion that stress resides neither in the person alone nor in the situation, but rather is a transaction betw the two
  • how a POC perceives a MA, the adaptive resources they possess, their racial identity developmt, the presence of family/social support, what they decides to do-may moderate or mediate the meaning & impact of the incident
Challenge 2-Racial, Gender, SO MAs Q/Q Differences
  • the transaction model of stress formulation has been criticized for lacking cultural sensitivity & relevance - it fails to address the racial, gender, so factors that involve group-specific race, gender, so-related stress
  • it also neglects the sociopolitical context under which marginalized groups exist in the society & overlook group-specific traumatic stress
  • it fails to sympathize with the life experience of marginality, the oppression that many experience, & how small slights symbolize strong memories of historical & continuing injustice
  • historical trauma or soul wound - MAs are linked to a wider sociopolitical context of oppression, injustice (historical trauma) that results in a soul wound passed on from generation to generation of those who understand their own histories of discrimination & prejudice
  • MAs are more stressful, impactful, harmful than ordinary stressful life events-true for several reasons: a. MAs symbols/reminders of racism, sexism, heterosexism; b. MAs are continual perpetual while stressful life events are time-limited;
  • c. MAs impact nearly all aspects of target's life academic, occupational/social functioning; d. stressful life events have a recognizable cause while MAs are often ambiguous & invisible


  • microaggressive stressors can be race, gender, so-related events that are experienced as a perceived threat to 1's biological, cognitive, emotional, psychological, social wellbeing or position in life
  • when a minority group member encounters microaggressive stressors, 4 pathways may show their negative impact:
  • a. biological-there may be direct physiological reactions BP, heart rate, or changes in immune system, b. cognitive-it may place in motion a cognitive appraisal involving thoughts & beliefs about the meaning of the stressor,
  • c. emotional-anger, rage, anxiety, depression, hopelessness may dominate the person's immediate life circumstances, d. behavioral-the coping strategies or behavioral reactions utilized by person may either enhance adjustmt or make situation worse
Biological Health Effects of Microaggressive Stressors
  • POC are at increase risk for certain illnesses CHD, diabetes, hypertension, allegies, asthma, etc due to the body's heightened physiological reactivity to chronic stressors 
  • stress decrease the immune system efficiency & increase susceptibility to illnesses-when under stress, the body releases neurohormones such as corticosteroids that impair immune functioning
  • exposure to chronic stress like MAs may make the person more susceptible to diseases & also affects the speed of their progression
Emotional Effects of Microaggressive Stressors
  • it is demonstrated that stressors esp interpersonal ones are strongly related to various forms of depression. 4 characteristics of stressors are especially important in facilitating depression
  • the disorder is more likely to occur when stressors a. are severe in nature (severity); b. are chronic than acute (chronicity), c. where the onset is early (onset), & d. when they involve loss or humiliation as opposed to dangerous events or threat (type of stressor)
  • a significant relationship betw depression & subjective wellbeing also seems to exist betw perceived discrimination & depression among blacks, AAs, latinos.
  • rate of depression have been found to be higher for native americans & SE asians
  • researchers believe that stressors that humiliate tended to be correlated with depressive disorders, while stressors that produce fear are associated with anxiety disorders
Cognitive Effects of Microaggressive Stressors
  • the cumulative impact of chronic stressors diminishes the quality of life, lowers life satisfaction, happiness, & self-esteem, increases cultural mistrust, feelings of alienation, anxiety, & feelings of loss, helplessness, racial rage, & may result in fatigue & exhaustion
  • MAs set off a a chain of cognitive processes aimed at attempting to understand & make sense of the incident-the greater the ambiguity of MAs, the more difficult its for the target to determine the meaning of conflicting messages
  • the target may expend more energy deliberating whether or not to respond or evaluating the consequences of making a response, esp when the power differential is so great-
  • the fact that an internal cognitive process is stimulated may divert the person's attention & energies from the task & affect his/her problem-solving & learning ability
Cognitive disruptions
  • blacks who witnessed the unfair decisions showed pronouned impairmt of problem-solving but those who witnessed subtle racism showed more impairmt than those confronting overt racist conditions
  • the investigators believe that blacks have developed coping strategies to deal with overt racism in which there is no guesswork -but the covert racism impair performance by draining psychological energy or detracting from the task at hand

Stereotype threat

  • black students underperform b/c there is a chance that they will confirm a stereotype. the threat instigates 2 psychological processes
  • a. apprehension that 1 will be evaluated by the stereotype & confirm it, b. protective disidentification or a tendency to reject a situation deeming it irrelevant
  • that is at cognitive level the person tells himself that the situation doesn't mean much thereby separating self-esteem from outcome


Behavioral Effects of Microaggressive Stressors
  • some coping responses seem functional & adaptive, while others may prove dysfunctional & maladaptive.
  • 5 observed reactions outlined:

hypervigilance & skepticism

  • microaggressive stressors may partially explain the cultural mistrust or healthy paranoia in form of suspiciousness, skepticism, hypervigilance directed toward majority group
  • some refer to this form of behavior as anticipatory racism reaction developed b/c of multiple experience of stereotyping, prejudice, & discrimination
  • this lack of trust or skepticism exhibited by many minorities towards the majority society has become a healthy functional survival mechanism as well as a sanity check
  • on functional end, it is adaptive mechanism used to survive but on the other side it may result in an inability to form close relations with members of majority culture
  • concealing true feelings, conforming to norms of larger group, behaving & expressing feelings to prevent offending whites enhances the chances of survival
  • blacks use defense mechanism like uncle tom syndrome-playing it cool to protect themselves from harm & exploitation
  • downside is internalized racism, sexism, heterosexism or selling out to advance society-
  • these behaviors reveal an underlying attempt to please oppressors in order to be avoid punishmts & attain rewards (being coopted) at the cost of 1's identity or sense of integrity
  • a person/target may act our their rage, frustration, hostility to others esp toward the dominant group
  • the intense rage may prove dysfunctional b/c it leaves the person in a constant state of agitation, pushes people away, & diminishes the joys of deep relationships with others-this esp true when anger becomes bitterness

fatigue & hopelessness

  • many POC, lgbts, women report feeling exhausted & fatigue from the constant petty humiliations, insults, demeaning situations they must face in their lives
  • they may withdraw from social interactions, isolate themselves,  poor or little social behavior
  • hopelessness & helplessness may mean making little effort to take control of 1's life b/c it won't do any good
  • the behavioral sign of hopelessness have been found to correlate with depression & suicide

Strength thru adversity

  • POC & other minorities are able to survive despite the marginality & microaggressive stressors-they have access to resources & have positive attributes which aid them in coping with their situations- heightened sense of perceptual awareness, ability to accurately read nonverbal & contextual cues, bicultural flexibility, sense of group identity
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