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Describe and evaluate Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)

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Introduction

Describe and evaluate Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) Hans Selye conducted some research into stress from the 1930's until he died in 1982. He thought that short term stress (acute stress) can be adapted by the body because of the 'flight or fight' response which enables us to cope with the demands of the environment. Furthermore he added that prolonged stress (chronic stress) can be very damaging. The way Selye gathered these results was by doing experiments on rats and seeing how they responded to different types of stress. He noticed that there was a pattern in how the rats and hospital patients similarly responded to stress. This pattern was a typical syndrome called 'The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS)'. GAS consisted of 3 stages; alarm reaction, resistance stage, and exhaustion. The body returns back to its normal functioning after the alarm reaction and exhaustion stage only happens when stress is prolonged. The first stage of GAS is the 'Alarm Reaction Stage'. ...read more.

Middle

117). Basically it's the body returning into its normal state at a steady rate. Also, the body tries to reabsorb excess resources such as coritsol, glucose, adrenaline or noradrenalin. However, in chronic stress, hormones are still above baseline levels and cortisol production increases in the body. This effects the immune system because number of white cell production is reduced and the stage may carry on to the final stage. The final stage is 'Exhaustion stage'. This only happens when stress is prolonged, demands of the body exceed the supply and the other 2 stages are ineffective. The level of stress hormones cannot restore to homeostasis causing the body's tissues to wear and tear, endocrine glands being damaged and adrenal glands to be enlarged. The ANS symptoms reappear which are increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension, breathing faster, salivation decreasing, pupils dilating and so on. ...read more.

Conclusion

The varying stressors produced different patterns of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol secreted in the body. It must also be criticized that Selye used non-humans (rats) for his research on human response to stress. This could have lead to some of his errors as rats may not respond in the same psychological way as humans. He may have used rats for ethical purposes and even if humans were used for the research, it could be argued that it was for medical purposes so it could not have been unethical anyway. Finally it has to be taken in account that the tests Selye carried out may not necessarily have the same outcomes in pattern for all people as all people have individual differences. Therefore the way in which one person reacts to one stress may vary from the way another person may react to the same stressor. Different levels of hormones may be produced and the patterns may differ with different people due to how they perceive and cope with the stress. ...read more.

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