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PSYCHOLOGY - SOCIETYHEALTH

What is the General Adaptation Syndrome?

By 28th October, 2022No Comments6 min read
What is the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)

What is the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)?

General adaptation syndrome

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) is a description of the process of how your body responds to stress. The phenomenon was first identified by a scientist named Hans Selye in 1946.

The easiest way to understand GAS is to look at it as the different stages of stress and how your body reacts at each stage. GAS occurs in three stages, and each stage is characterized by a unique set of physiological changes your body experiences.

Stages of the General Adaptation Syndrome

General adaptation syndrome occurs in three stages. In each of these stages, your body reacts in different ways. The physiological changes your body goes through during this process can have a long-term negative effect.

The three stages of GAS are explained below.

Alarm reaction stage

This is the first stage of the general adaptation syndrome. During this stage, your body sends a distress signal to your brain.

Your brain responds by sending a message to the body by releasing hormones called glucocorticoids and adrenaline; these are also known as your "fight or flight" hormones. During the alarm reaction stage, you will also experience elevated blood pressure and heart rate levels.

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)

resistance stage

The resistance stage occurs after the reaction stage. During this stage, your body attempts to thwart the changes that occurred during the reaction stage by using the parasympathetic nervous system. It usually happens when whatever was causing your stress stops.

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If you remain stressed, the reaction stage will persist. In the endurance stage, your body begins to lower your blood pressure and heart rate. It also reduces the amount of adrenaline and cortisol that is produced.

However, your body remains on alert at this stage and can easily go back to the reaction stage if the stressor persists. At this stage, your body is simply trying to recover from the shock of the alarm reaction stage.

exhaustion stage

Stress puts your body to the test, and the burnout stage comes after prolonged stress.

You experience this stage after your body has been through a prolonged period of stress. Here, even if the stressor persists, your body is too exhausted to continue fighting it. This is the riskiest stage of the general adaptation syndrome, since here you are more prone to developing health problems.

Signs of general adaptation syndrome

During each of the three stages of general adaptation syndrome, your body exhibits different signs.

Alarm reaction stage

During the reaction stage, your body reacts in the following ways.

  • high blood pressure
  • Heart rate speeds up
  • Dilated pupils
  • senses heightened
  • Redness of the skin
  • resistance stage

If there is persistent stress, in the resistance stage your body may exhibit the following:

  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Frustration
  • exhaustion stage

The exhaustion stage leaves your body feeling unprepared to avoid stress. You are susceptible to developing stress-related conditions at this stage.

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Your body may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • cognitive difficulties
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

Identification of the general adaptation syndrome

Hans Selye, a researcher and scientist, came up with the concept of the general adaptation syndrome. He used the term to define the physical changes the body undergoes when stressed. He discovered this while experimenting on lab rats.

In his study, he noted that the rats underwent specific psychological changes during the experiment when they were exposed to physical stressors such as extreme temperatures. 3

However, many other things could also trigger stress and they include:

  • losing a loved one
  • Get the sack
  • going through a breakup
  • have a demanding job

Stress is responsible for the general adaptation syndrome. Although Hans Selye has only identified physical stressors in his initial experiment, any type of stress could cause the appearance of GAS.

During the first stage of general adaptation syndrome, your body goes into "fight or flight"

This mode is essential to protect yourself during a stressful or dangerous situation. You get a burst of energy that helps you think more critically and helps you deal effectively with the stressful situation at hand.

Complications associated with general adaptation syndrome

While general adaptation syndrome is not a condition that needs to be diagnosed or treated, it is primarily a description of what happens to your body under stress. Being in a stressful state for a long period of time can cause medical complications. You could develop a number of physical and medical conditions.

Some of the more common conditions that have been linked to experiencing prolonged levels of physical or mental stress include:

  • Hypertension
  • Mood and anxiety disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Immunosuppression
  • Management of the General Adaptation Syndrome
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Finding ways to deal with prolonged stress will help prevent your body from entering the burnout stage.

The exhaustion stage is the riskiest stage of the general adaptation syndrome. During this stage, your immune system weakens and you are at higher risk of developing health problems like high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

There is no one way to handle stress. You will need to identify your stressors and try to get rid of or minimize them. Some tried and tested techniques that people have used to manage stress for centuries include:

Eat a balanced diet: What you eat plays a big role in how you feel. If you feed your body unhealthy foods, it will be ill-equipped to handle stressful situations.

Exercise more regularly: Research shows that exercising regularly can help lower your stress levels.

If you're new to exercise or don't like going to the gym, taking daily walks around your neighborhood is a great way to get moving.

Practice breathing exercises: Taking deep, controlled breaths when you're in a stressful situation can help you relax and cope better.

Identify your triggers: The first step in managing your stress is identifying what triggers it in the first place. This could be a very demanding job, contacting an estranged relative, or going to a specific place. Identifying what triggers your stress can help you get rid of them.

Write your feelings: Journaling is an often overlooked way to deal with stress. Writing down your feelings and accepting them can help you cope better.

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