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    General adaptation syndrome: What it is, stages, and examples

    General adaptation syndrome (GAS) describes the body's response to stress. It involves an alarm reaction, resistance, and exhaustion. At each stage, the heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenalin levels will behave in a specific way. Find out what happens, what can trigger this response, and some tips on how to cope.

    What to know about general adaptation syndrome

    Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD — Written by Lana Burgess on November 28, 2017

    General adaptation syndrome is a three-stage response that the body has to stress. But what do the different stages involve and what examples are there of GAS in action?

    Stress is sometimes thought of as a mental pressure, but it also has a physical effect on the body. Understanding the stages the body goes through when exposed to stress helps people become more aware of these physical signs of stress when they occur.

    This article explores what general adaption syndrome (GAS) is, its different stages, and when it may occur. It also considers how people can better manage their response to stress.

    Fast facts about GAS:

    GAS is a three-stage process that the body goes through when it is exposed to stress.

    It is vital to find ways to manage it to limit the effects on the body.

    Causes of the process include life events and psychological stress.

    What is GAS?

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    GAS describes the way the body responds to stress.

    Hans Selye, a Vienna-born scientist, working in the 20th century, was the first person to describe GAS.

    Selye found that rats displayed a similar set of physical responses to several different stressors. The latter included cold temperatures, excessive physical exertions, and injection with toxins.

    The scientist explained GAS as the body’s way of adapting to a perceived threat to better equip it to survive. A paper on Selye’s GAS theory was published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology in 1946.

    The three stages of GAS

    The three stages of GAS are:

    alarm reaction resistance exhaustion

    What happens within the body during each of these stages is explored below.

    Alarm reaction stage

    At the alarm reaction stage, a distress signal is sent to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus enables the release of hormones called glucocorticoids.

    Glucocorticoids trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol, which is a stress hormone. The adrenaline gives a person a boost of energy. Their heart rate increases and their blood pressure rises. Meanwhile, blood sugar levels also go up.

    These physiological changes are governed by a part of a person’s autonomic nervous system (ANS) called the sympathetic branch.

    The alarm reaction stage of the GAS prepares a person to respond to the stressor they are experiencing. This is often known as a “fight or flight” response.


    During the resistance stage, the body tries to counteract the physiological changes that happened during the alarm reaction stage. The resistance stage is governed by a part of the ANS called the parasympathetic.

    The parasympathetic branch of the ANS tries to return the body to normal by reducing the amount of cortisol produced. The heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal.

    If the stressful situation comes to an end, during the resistance stage, the body will then return to normal.

    However, if the stressor remains, the body will stay in a state of alert, and stress hormones continue to be produced.

    This physical response can lead to a person struggling to concentrate and becoming irritable.

    Exhaustion stage

    After an extended period of stress, the body goes into the final stage of GAS, known as the exhaustion stage. At this stage, the body has depleted its energy resources by continually trying but failing to recover from the initial alarm reaction stage.

    Once it reaches the exhaustion stage, a person’s body is no longer equipped to fight stress. They may experience:

    tiredness depression anxiety

    feeling unable to cope

    If a person does not find ways to manage stress levels at this stage, they are at risk of developing stress-related health conditions.

    When does GAS occur?

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    Stressful life events and experiences, such as being in debt or having problems at work, may lead to GAS.

    Selye’s study was limited to physical stressors, such as cold temperatures and physical over-exertion. However, it is now understood that life events that induce psychological stress cause the same physical reactions, as were seen in Selye’s study.

    The sort of life events that can cause a person to experience stress and GAS include:

    relationship breakdowns

    losing a job medical problems money troubles

    In theory, the fact that these situations can cause GAS may be beneficial. The alarm reaction gives people a burst of energy and concentration that could help them to problem-solve.

    For most people, however, the physical response their body goes through when they are under stress is not helpful.

    Unlike threats people may have faced in the Stone Age, a person nowadays is unlikely to be able to resolve a stressful situation of modern-day life with a burst of energy.

    Source : www.medicalnewstoday.com


    Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards terms like Which level on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is the ultimate goal (the highest)?, Which of the following describes an assertive person?, Stress can be a major factor in the cause of? and more.

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    Which level on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is the ultimate goal (the highest)?

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    Which of the following describes an assertive person?

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    1) doesn't doubt how they feel about something

    2) doesn't question what other people think of their choices

    3) bold & confident

    4) *ALL OF THE ABOVE**

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    Terms in this set (25)

    Which level on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is the ultimate goal (the highest)?


    Which of the following describes an assertive person?

    1) doesn't doubt how they feel about something

    2) doesn't question what other people think of their choices

    3) bold & confident

    4) *ALL OF THE ABOVE**

    Stress can be a major factor in the cause of?

    hypertension (high blood pressure)

    What is the second step in the Decision Making Model?

    1) evaluate your decision

    2) **list the possible choices**

    3) make a decision and act on it

    4) consider the possible consequences and your values

    5) state the problem

    What step is the most important in the Decision Making Model?

    evaluating your decision

    All stress is bad. false

    You are born with your self concept.


    Environmental depression is?

    an inability to cope with what is perceived as a hopeless situation

    Which of the following questions would help a person evaluate a decision they have just made?

    1) What was the final outcome?

    2) Did my decision affect others?

    3) Would you make the same decision again?

    4) **ALL OF THE ABOVE**

    Food is what type of need on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

    a physiological need

    Continued stress can exhaust the body


    Which of the following is not an acceptable way to manage stress?

    drinking alcohol

    Depression is very uncommon among people in this country.

    false Stress?

    1) is always bad for you

    2) affects teens more than adults

    3) **is a response to a situation**

    4) does not affect everyone

    Stress was defined as a "nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it." What is meant by "nonspecific"?

    1) That stress can be caused by anything and/or anyone.

    2) That stress is always around us and there's nothing we can do about it.

    3) That the body reacts in different ways depending on the stressor(s).

    4) **That stress affects a person's entire body, not just specific parts.**

    The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body to meet the demands of the stressor during the "alarm" stage of the General Adaptation Syndrome.


    Alcohol is involved in 75% of all suicides.


    Food, drink, and shelter are examples of aesthetic needs in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.


    Shari's grandmother died last week of lung cancer. She has felt sad and unmotivated since she found out about her grandmother's death. Which of the following best describes what Shari is most likely experiencing?

    1) physiological depression

    2) suicidal thoughts


    4) eustress

    Reducing stress can reduce the chances of illness and disease.


    Teens commit suicide because?

    1) of limited life experiences, they think their pain will not go away

    2) impulsiveness

    3) someone they admire committed suicide

    4) **ALL OF THE ABOVE**

    Suicide should never be an option when faced with what seems to be an unsolvable problem.


    The most important thing you can do if ever presented with a suicide situation is to listen.


    On Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, everyone will one day reach self actualization.


    Which of the following characterizes signs of depression?

    1) lethargic (sleepy)

    2) pessimism 3) emptiness

    4) **ALL OF THE ABOVE**

    5) none of the above

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    Acute Stress Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

    General adaptation syndrome describes the three stages your body goes through when undergoing stress. Learn the signs of each stage.

    Acute Stress Disorder

    Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD — Written by Rose Kivi — Updated on September 29, 2018

    What’s acute stress disorder?

    In the weeks after a traumatic event, you may develop an anxiety disorder called acute stress disorder (ASD). ASD typically occurs within one month of a traumatic event. It lasts at least three days and can persist for up to one month. People with ASD have symptoms similar to those seen in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    What causes acute stress disorder?

    Experiencing, witnessing, or being confronted with one or more traumatic events can cause ASD. The events create intense fear, horror, or helplessness. Traumatic events that can cause ASD include a:


    threat of death to oneself or others

    threat of serious injury to oneself or others

    threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others

    Approximately 6 to 33 percent of people who experience a traumatic event develop ASD, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This rate varies based on the nature of the traumatic situation.

    Who’s at risk for acute stress disorder?

    Anyone can develop ASD after a traumatic event. You may have an increased risk of developing ASD if you have:

    experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with a traumatic event in the past

    a history of ASD or PTSD

    a history of certain types of mental problems

    a history of dissociative symptoms during traumatic events

    What are the symptoms of acute stress disorder?

    The symptoms of ASD include:

    Dissociative symptoms

    You’ll have three or more of the following dissociative symptoms if you have ASD:

    feeling numb, detached, or being emotionally unresponsive

    a reduced awareness of your surroundings

    derealization, which occurs when your environment seems strange or unreal to you

    depersonalization, which occurs when your thoughts or emotions don’t seem real or don’t seem like they belong to you

    dissociative amnesia, which occurs when you cannot remember one or more important aspects of the traumatic event

    Reexperiencing the traumatic event

    You’ll persistently re-experience the traumatic event in one or more of the following ways if you have ASD:

    having recurring images, thoughts, nightmares, illusions, or flashback episodes of the traumatic event

    feeling like you’re reliving the traumatic event

    feeling distressed when something reminds you of the traumatic event


    You may avoid stimuli that cause you to remember or re-experience the traumatic event, such as:

    people conversations places objects activities thoughts feelings

    Anxiety or increased arousal

    The symptoms of ASD may include anxiety and increased arousal. The symptoms of anxiety and increased arousal include:

    having trouble sleeping

    being irritable

    having difficulty concentrating

    being unable to stop moving or sit still

    being constantly tense or on guard

    becoming startled too easily or at inappropriate times


    The symptoms of ASD may cause you distress or disrupt important aspects of your life, such as your social or work settings. You may have an inability to start or complete necessary tasks, or an inability to tell others about the traumatic event.

    How’s acute stress disorder diagnosed?

    Your primary doctor or mental healthcare provider will diagnose ASD by asking you questions about the traumatic event and your symptoms. It’s also important to rule out other causes such as:

    drug abuse

    side effects of medications

    health problems

    other psychiatric disorders

    If you don’t already have a primary care doctor or a mental healthcare professional, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.

    How’s acute stress disorder treated?

    Your doctor may use one or more of the following methods to treat ASD:

    a psychiatric evaluation to determine your specific needs

    hospitalization if you’re at risk of suicide or harming others

    assistance in obtaining shelter, food, clothing, and locating family, if necessary

    psychiatric education to teach you about your disorder

    medication to relieve symptoms of ASD, such as antianxiety medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and antidepressants

    cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which may increase recovery speed and prevent ASD from turning into PTSD

    exposure-based therapies


    Online therapy options

    Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.


    Explore new calming exercises with Calm

    Manage your anxiety with the award-winning Calm app. Try a guided meditation, a sleep story, or stretches designed by experts to help you focus and relax. Start your free trial today.


    What’s the long-term outlook?

    Many people with ASD are later diagnosed with PTSD. A diagnosis of PTSD is made if your symptoms persist for more than a month and cause a significant amount of stress and difficulty functioning.

    Treatment may reduce your chances of developing PTSD. Approximately 50 percent of PTSD cases resolve within six months, whereas others may persist for years.

    Source : www.healthline.com

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