General Adaptation Syndrome

June 27, 2022

General Adaptation Syndrome

Stress in general terms is considered to be a negative phenomenon but without stress one is said to be dead. As there are many examples of our day to day which are stressful but are positive in nature like receiving a promotion opportunity, getting married etc.

Intellects have categorized stress into the following categories:

  •  Eustress: Eustress is the positive stress that drives an individual to do his/her work with more dedication.

Example: Getting a job, birth of a child, getting promoted at the workplace.

  •  Distress: Distress is that type of stress due to which an individual experiences sadness, pain, unpleasant emotions etc.

Example: Death of loved ones, meeting with an accident, being fired from the job.

  •  Neustress: This kind of stress is experienced by an individual when he/she is exposed to such situations or events that are not affecting him/her.

Example: Listening to the news of a bomb blast in Russia by Indians.

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 The concept of General Adaptation Syndrome was given by a medical doctor and researcher Hans Seyle.

While performing an experiment on lab rats at McGill University, Montreal he observed a series of psychological changes in them when they were exposed to stressful events.

Stress causes physical and psychological changes in the body. GAS is a three-stage process that the body undergoes when it is exposed to stressful events. 

The General Adaptation Syndrome is a three stage process of the various psychological changes that happen in the body of an individual when he/she is exposed to stressful events or situations.

Hans Seyle identified those 3 stages as the following:

  1. Alarm Reaction Stage.
  2. Resistance Stage.
  3. Exhaustion Stage.

Alarm Reaction Stage
It is the initial stage when the body experiences. In this stage only the body decides either to fight or flight with the stress in order to protect itself. In this stage the heart beat increases, blood pressure increases. Hormone called Cortisol and adrenaline is released by the body.

Resistance Stage
During the Resistance Stage, the body tries to counteract the various psychological changes that happened in the first stage i.e., the alarm Reaction Stage. This stage is governed by the Autonomic Nervous System and its parasympathetic branch tries to bring back the body in its normal situation by reducing the level of Cortisol and adrenaline released, normalizing the increased heart beat and blood pressure in the first stage.

If the stressful situation or event comes to an end in this stage then the body will then return into its normal state as it was before the stress.
But if the stressful situation is not resolved then the body remains on high alert and the Cortisol and adrenaline keep on releasing from the body.

Some signs of the resistance Stage are

Poor concentration.

Exhaustion Stage
It is the final stage of the GAS, the body enters into this stage when it has experienced an extended period of stress. At this stage the body has exhausted its strength and energy by continuously dealing with stress right from the initial stage i.e., alarming reaction stage.

Some signs of the exhaustion Stage:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression.
  • Fatigue.
  • Burnout.
  • Sleeping disorders.

The physical effects of the exhaustion Stage also weakens the immune system of an individual and puts him/her at risk of stress-related illnesses. So the stress should now be properly managed in order to protect it from future physical, mental, psychological illnesses.