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Individuals diagnosed with cancer often experience significant amounts of stress. Some patients cope with stress by adopting unhealthy habits (like drinking, smoking, or withdrawing from social relationships), which can increase symptom severity and result in poor quality of life both during and after cancer treatment. Conversely, individuals who manage stress with healthy techniques can experience symptom relief and improved quality of life. A group of oncologists hope to promote healthy stress reduction and decide to focus their efforts on deep breathing. They postulate that a deep breathing exercise will induce the relaxation response, a physical state of deep rest that is the physiological opposite of a stress response (or fight or flight). They believe that when patients learn to breathe more slowly and deeply, their muscles will relax, blood pressure will decrease, and heart rates will slow down (all characteristics of the relaxation response). When testing the exercise with two patients they notice significant decreases in blood pressure, muscle tension, and heart rate. They conclude that the exercise could decrease select physical symptoms of stress. The oncologists decide to expand their testing, and develop several deep-breathing exercises to be delivered in a group format. They believe that the combined exercises will help patients cope during times of stress. The program consists of 30-minute guided group breathing classes that occur biweekly for 8 weeks. Patients are also asked to complete home deep breathing practices. To test their theory, they recruit 10 adult cancer patients to participate in their program. The patient group is homogenous in type and stage of cancer. All patients have recently received their cancer diagnosis. The patients are all between 45 and 55 years old (mean age 48.6) and there are equal numbers of men and women in the group. Each patient completes a stress symptom checklist both before and after the intervention. The stress symptoms checklist can be found in Table 1. The symptom checklist is divided into four categories, with six possible symptoms in each category. Patients are instructed to circle any and all symptoms they are currently experiencing. The results from the study can be found in Figure 1 <image 1>. Which coping strategy best describes the deep breathing program?

The coping strategy best described in the text is cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring is a technique that helps individuals to identify and change negative or unhelpful thoughts and beliefs. The deep breathing program described in the text is designed to help patients to relax and reduce stress by focusing on their breath and the present moment. This can help to reduce negative or unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, and can lead to improved coping and quality of life.

Expected Answer: B

Difficulty: Medium

Subfield: Biological Psychology


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February 14, 2024