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Journal published by the Hellenic
Psychiatric Association


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Stress is an adaptation reaction of living organisms in response to internal or external threatsto homeostasis. It is considered as a complex defence mechanism representing the final endpoint of numerous dynamic and interconnected factors of biological, psychological and socialnature. Stress is not a simple, stimulus-response reaction, but the interaction between an individualand the environment, involving subjective perception and assessment of stressors, thus constitutinga highly personalized process. Specific inherited characteristics, early experience in life, andparticular, learned cognitive predispositions make individuals more or less susceptible to the effectsof stressors. Resilience and vulnerability to stressors as well as intensity of stress response are greatlydependable on age, gender, intelligence, and numerous characteristics of personality, such as hardiness,locus of control, self-efficacy, self-esteem, optimism, hostility (component of type A personality)and type D traits (negative affectivity and social inhibition). To understand the relation betweenpersonality and stress, it is essential to recognize the impact of individual differences in the followingfour aspects: (1) choice or avoidance of environments that are associated with specific stressors, challengesor benefits, (2) way of interpreting a stressful situation and evaluating one’s own abilities andcapacities for proactive behaviour so as to confront or avoid it, (3) intensity of response to a stressor,and (4) coping strategies employed by the individual facing a stressful situation. Studies have recordedconsiderable consistency in coping strategies employed to confront stressful situations, independentlyof situational factors and in connection with permanent personality and temperamental traits,such as neuroticism, extraversion, sense of humour, persistence, fatalism, conscientiousness, andopenness to experience. Positive affect has been associated with positive reappraisal (reframing) ofstressful situations, goal-directed problem-focused coping, using spiritual or religious beliefs to seekcomfort, and infusion of meaning into the ordinary events of daily life in order to gain a psychologicaltime-out from distress. Characteristics of a resilient personality are: ability to cope in stressful situations,continuing engagement in activities, flexibility to unexpected changes in life, ability to seeksocial support, perceiving stress as a challenge – a chance for growth and development rather than athreat to life, taking care of one’s body, living in harmony with nature, optimism and sense of humour,work and love, developing spiritualism and seeking true sense. The tolerance threshold is individual.However, even persons with mature and integrated personalities exposed to prolonged stress mayexperience failure of their adaptive capacities and psychological or somatic decompensation. Duringthe last years, Life Skills Education has become the focus of particular attention. Educational programsaim at developing the capacities for critical thinking, analyzing and problem-solving, buildingof self-confidence, confronting various negative pressures imposed by the environment, improvingself-assessment, developing communication and social adjustment skills, and gaining control overstressors and one’s own affective and behavioral response. Finally, special programs for individualvulnerable population groups (teenagers, elderly persons, patients with AIDS, addictions, etc.) havebeen introduced so as to strengthen their ability to handle specific stressful situations.

Key words: Stress, personality, coping styles, resilience, vulnerability

D. Lecic-Tosevski, O. Vukovic, J. Stepanovic (page 290) - Full article