The General Adaptation Syndrome by Hans Selye

Endocrinologist and Scientist Hans Selye (1907-1982) introduced the “General Adaptation Syndrome” (GAS) theory in 1936. GAS is the three-stage process that describes the body’s response to stress.

According to Selye, the stress response is the body’s “non-specific reaction to demands made to its internal equilibrium.” The stress damage results from prolonged exposure to the stressor and happens in 3 stages.


The 3-Stage General Adaptation Syndrome – The Stress Cycle

Stage 1: Alarm Reaction

  • The alarm reaction is the initial stage of the general adaptation syndrome (i.e. a reaction to a stressor).
  • When encountering a stressor, your body prepares with a “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” response as it is trying to protect itself or flee from a challenging situation or stimulus (i.e. the stressor).
  • In the book Stress and the ManagerKarl Albrecht describes the stress reaction as –

“a co-ordinated mobilisation of the entire human body to meet the requirements of life and death struggle or of rapid escape from the situation. The intensity of the stress reaction depends on the brain’s perception of the severity of the situation.” (p. 796).

Stage 2: Resistance

  • Resistance is the second stage of the general adaptation syndrome. This is where the body tries to resist and compensates to the stressor/s it is exposed to.
  • Depending on the stressor, changes can take place on many levels. For example – if the stressor is money, you could start to cut back on buying and eating nutritious food. If this continues and your situation doesn’t change, this can then have an impact on your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.


Stage 3: Exhaustion

  • Exhaustion is the third stage.
  • If the stressor continues beyond the bodies’ capacity to deal with stress, you exhaust your resources and become susceptible to disease and even death in extreme circumstances.


Over to You…

I hope this post has given some insight in to the General Adaptation Syndrome by Hans Selye. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us.

Also, remember that Hans Selye made the important distinction … ‘Without stress, there would be no life.’, subsequently it is how we end up managing stress.

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and living wholeheartedlywhy not join our Toolkit?


Reference –

Albrecht, K. (1979). Stress and the Manager. New York, USA: Touchstone Books.

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