Blood Pressure and Emotional Responses to Stress: Perspectives on Cardiovascular Reactivity



It has long been thought that increases in blood pressure in response to stress are associated with emotional responses to stress. The health implications of such an association are clear; excessive emotional reactivity leads to excessive cardiovascular reactivity (CVR), which is associated with cardiovascular disease. However, the data do not support a strong association between CVR and emotional responses to acute stress. This lack of support has lead to research that interprets CVR to stress in at least three different ways: (1) as a potential contributor to disease development, (2) as an index of active coping, or (3) as a multidimensional construct that is affected by cognitive appraisals of a situation. In this article, we review these separate perspectives on CVR and suggest that a multidimensional perspective of CVR and emotional responding to stress may help integrate the CVR – health, effort, and appraisal points of view.