The Adjustment Domai

Aids Patient Last Stage

An AIDS patient in an advanced stage of the disease. Although AIDS is caused by a virus, its transmission from person to person occurs through specific behaviors.

or much of history , humans have been battling microbes in an ef fort to overcome disease and illness. The list of germ-borne illnesses is long, with many epidemics. For example, in 1520, the Spanish conquistadors landed in Mexico with several slaves brought from Spanish Cuba. One of the slaves had smallpox. The illness spread to the native Aztec tribes, who had no immunity to smallpox. It quickly killed half of the Aztec people, including their emperor, Cuitlahuac. Aided by the microbe that causes smallpox, the Spanish had no trouble conquering all of Mexico. Imagine how helpless the Aztecs must have felt as the mysterious disease killed only them, sparing the Spaniards, who had developed immunity . The Aztecs must have thought the Spaniards were invincible. The native population of Mexico, estimated at 20 million when the Spaniards arrived, fell to 1.6 million in less than 100 years (Diamond, 1999).

The world is currently experiencing another epidemic of an infectious disease: the HIV virus, which causes AIDS. The microbe that causes AIDS resides in bodily fluids and passes from person to person whenever bodily fluids containing t microbe are exchanged. A cure for AIDS has not yet been discovered, nor is there a vaccine that will prevent the spread of HIV . The explosive spread of this infectious disease has surprised even medical researchers. In some African countries, for example, the percentage of the adult population infected with HIV is huge; 37 percent of the population of Botswana, 38 percent of Swaziland, and 25 percent of Zimbabwe (Tarantola, Lamptev, & Moodie, 1999). South Africa, the largest

An AIDS patient in an advanced stage of the disease. Although AIDS is caused by a virus, its transmission from person to person occurs through specific behaviors.

country in Africa, with over 5,000,000 people, has an HIV infection rate of 22 percent, which translates into 1,100,000 people with the HIV virus living in this country alone. In 2005 in Africa 2.3 million people died from AIDS. Imagine living in a country in which one out of every three or four adults is carrying HIV .

The current epidemic of AIDS illustrates a very important distinction; while its cause is a virus, its transmission is through specific behaviors. For example, unsaf sex practices (e.g., not using condoms) greatly increase the likelihood of transmitting AIDS. Another high-risk behavior is the sharing of intravenous needles by drug addicts. While medical researchers search for a vaccination and cure, psychologists are searching for the best ways to change people' s high-risk behavior.

This is only one example of the importance of behavior in understanding illness. In earlier centuries, most of the serious illnesses that af flicted humans were cause by microbe infection, including such diseases as tuberculosis, influenza, lepros , polio, bubonic plague, cholera, smallpox, malaria, measles, rabies, and diphtheria. As modern medicine developed ef fective vaccines, these microbial diseases pretty much disappeared as major causes of death (at least in the United States). Today, many of the leading causes of death and disease are related not to microbes as much as to lifestyle factors, such as smoking, poor diet, inadequate exercise, and stress. In other words, now that we are curing microbe infections, psychological factors have emer ged as important contributors to the development of illness.

The realization that psychological and behavioral factors can have important health consequences has given rise to the field of health psychology. Researchers in this area of psychology study the relationship between the mind and the body , as well as the ways in which these two components respond to challenges from the environment (e.g., stressful events, germs) to produce either illness or health. Many of the psychological variables of interest have to do with stable patterns of behavior—for example, whether a person copes well with stress, exercises some or not at all, sleeps seven to eight hours each night, drinks alcohol only in moderation, routinely wears a seat belt, keeps his or her weight at a desirable level, avoids drugs, practices safe sex, and avoids unnecessary risks. Researchers find that such behaviors are correlated with lif expectancy. In fact, in the United States, researchers suggest that lifestyle contributes to more than half of all premature deaths—that is, death before age 65 (T aylor, 1991).

Personality can have an impact on health in many ways, and personality psychologists are developing new methodological approaches to the study of this link. Current research is based on detailed models of the mechanisms underlying the links between personality and health (Smith & Spiro, 2002). Life span studies show that personality can have life-long ef fects on health, though the ef fects differ depending on the traits being considered (Aldwin, Spiro, Levenson, & Cupertino, 2001) or the specific health outcomes under investigation, e.g., the cance -prone personality characterized by being unassertive and emotionally inhibited, the coronary-prone personality characterized by being hostile and aggressive (Eysenck, 2000).

In this chapter, we will focus on a portion of the field of health psychology whic concerns personality and individual dif ferences. Some main research questions in this area are the following: "Are some people more likely than others to become ill?" "Do some people recover faster?" "Are some people more able than others to tolerate stress?" Understanding the nature and consequences of such dif ferences between people is the focus of this chapter . We will begin by discussing various ways of thinking about how personality influences health. Within health psychology, several models have been applied to understanding the link between personality and illness.

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Responses

  • Selam
    What does advanced aids look like?
    2 years ago

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