Managing and coping with stress: drug therapy (benzodiazepines, beta blockers), stress inoculation therapy and biofeedback. Gender differences in coping with stress. The role of social support in coping with stress; types of social support, including instrumental, emotional and esteem support.
Today there are two main categories:
E.g. Librium and valium
Benzodiazepines (BZs) increase the activity of a chemical called GABA. GABA increases the uptake of chlorine ions at the synapse which prevents other neurotransmitters being so effective. This acts to reduce the activity of other neurotransmitters such as serotonin. By increasing the activity of GABA, BZs therefore dampen activity and arousal of neurons in the CNS.
Unfortunately GABA reduces activity in about 40% of the brain’s neurons so doesn’t just effect stress pathways. As a result BZs have a number of side effects.
Side effects include increased aggression, depression, drowsiness, memory loss (particularly laying down new memories in LTM) and various other cognitive deficits such as learning. Fortunately, many of these effects are only temporary.[/toggle_item]
BBs slow down activity in the sympathetic branch of the ANS by reducing levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. This has two positive effects; it reduces heart rate and blood pressure etc. and because it is difficult to feel stressed when your heart isn’t pumping away like a mad ‘un, it helps to make us feel calm.
Because they have fewer side effects they tend to be the drug of choice for sports people and especially musicians. Lockwood found that 27% of musicians had used BBs and generally found them useful.
Drugs are convenient being quick and easy to take. Compared to lengthy sessions of therapy they are cheap and far less time consuming.
However, they can be addictive. BZs especially can induce withdrawal symptoms even when taken in small doses. There is also the issue of tolerance with greater and greater quantities needed to gain the same stress reduction when they are taken for any length of time.