Repressors exhibit lower cortisol reactivity to group psychosocial stress

Oskis, A., Smyth, N., Flynn, M. and Clow, A. 2019. Repressors exhibit lower cortisol reactivity to group psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 103, pp. 33-40. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.12.220

TitleRepressors exhibit lower cortisol reactivity to group psychosocial stress
TypeJournal article
AuthorsOskis, A., Smyth, N., Flynn, M. and Clow, A.
Abstract

Repressors are well-known to monitor potential psychosocial threats to their self-esteem and self-concept. In research, repressors are traditionally categorised as those scoring low on trait anxiety and high on defensiveness (as measured by social desirability scales). Examining repressors’ cortisol reactivity to a group socio-evaluative laboratory stressor could be an important way to extend work on the classic ‘repressor dissociation’, which proposes that this group experience higher levels of physiological stress, but lower levels of subjective affect during stressful situations. Research however has focused mainly on repressors’ higher, more risk-prone levels of autonomic, rather than hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA), reactivity to stressful stimuli. We assessed cortisol reactivity using a group-based acute psychosocial stressor, the Trier Social Stress Test for groups (TSST-G), which required participants to individually perform public speaking and mental arithmetic tasks in front of up to six other group members, as well as an evaluative panel of judges. Seventy-seven healthy young females (mean age ± SD: 20.2 ± 3.2 years) took part, of which 64 met the conventional criterion for a response to the TSST-G (<15.5% increase from baseline sample). The Stress-Arousal Checklist was completed pre- and post-TSST-G. Participants also completed the Perceived Stress Scale, the Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Marlow-Crowne Social Desirability Scale. The latter two measures were used to provide a categorisation of repressive coping style. Participants identified as repressive copers exhibited significantly lower cortisol reactivity during the TSST-G. Repressors also self-reported less subjective stress. These findings provide some evidence against the notion of the repressor dissociation and are discussed in terms of how cortisol hyporeactivity may be a pathway through which repressive coping adversely affects health.

Keywordsrepress
anxiety
TSST-G
HPA Axis
cortisol reactivity
non-responders
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Journal citation103, pp. 33-40
ISSN0306-4530
Year2019
PublisherElsevier
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.12.220
Publication dates
Published online17 Dec 2018
Published in printMay 2019
LicenseCC BY-NC-ND 4.0

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