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General Adaptation Syndrome

 

Explanations > Brain > Brain dysfunction > General Adaptation Syndrome

Alarm | Resistance | Exhaustion | So what?

 

Endocrinologist Hans Selye described the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) where initial observations about infectious reactions led to the discovery that stress can lead to infection, illness, disease and death. There are three stages that he discovered: Alarm, Resistance and Exhaustion.

Alarm

When we are surprised or threatened, we have an immediate physical reaction, often called the Fight-or-Flight reaction. This prepares the body for life-threatening situations, channelling away resources from such as the digestive and immune system to more immediate muscular and emotional needs. This leads to the immune system being depressed, making us susceptible to disease.

Resistance

As we become used to the stress levels, we initially become more resistance to disease, which leads us to believe we can easily adapt to these more stressful situations. However, this is only the immune system fighting to keep up with demands and expectations, but requires it to work at abnormally high levels.

Exhaustion

Eventually reality kicks in and our bodies give up on trying to maintain a high level of stress. Parts of the body literally start to break down and we become very unwell. If we continue to fight this situation, we may even die.

So what?

If you are working to reduce someone's stress levels, teach them about this. Show them how the end is nigh.

If you are using stress to persuade, then expect a good long period of resistance.

If you are overworking yourself, take a break.

See also

Fight-or-Flight reaction, Anger, Fear, Risk bias, Threat forecast

 

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/%7Eberczii/page2.htm

 

Selye, Hans (1946). The general adaptation syndrome and the diseases of adaptation. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology 6:117-230

Selye, Hans (1952). The Story of the Adaptation Syndrome. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Acta Inc.

 

 

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