Selyes Theorymodel Of Stress

The Austrian-born Canadian endocrinologist and psychologist Hans Selye (1907-1982) was one of the first modern psychologists to examine systematically the construct of stress and its effects on the organism, although medical and theoretical interest in stress goes back to the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.). In the 1920s, the American physiologist Walter B. Cannon (1871-1945) verified for stress theory that the "stress response" is part of a unified mind-body system, where a variety of stressors (such as lack of oxygen, extreme cold, emotional states) trigger the flow of adrenaline and noradrenaline that, in turn, enter the bloodstream from sympathetic nerve endings in the inner portion of the adrenal glands. Such physiological events help to prepare and adapt the body for what Cannon called the "flight or fight" syndrome, or what is known today as Cannon's emergency syndrome. Hans Selye spent 40 years of research on stress and expanded Cannon's findings to the extent that today stress is a major concept in both medicine and psychology. Based on his study of hormone-action in rats, and after many disappointments with his experiments, Selye discovered that many stressors such as surgical trauma, heat, cold, electric shock, and immobilizing restraint all have similar physiological effects on the organism. The body's adaptive response to stress seemed so general to Selye that he called it the general adaptation syndrome (GAS), which is defined as the pattern of nonspecific bodily mechanisms activated in response to a continuing threat by almost any severe stressor (cf., levee effect - a reaction to disaster/stress, or the threat of disaster, by the individual's acquisition of psychic devices used to protect the person or the group, much like a levee that may not provide full protection from flooding, but it does serve to give one a sense of security). According to Selye's theory, the GAS is divided into three stages: (1) alarm reaction - initially, the stressor results in a state of alarm ("shock" and "countershock" phases) and mobilization in which the body's resistance drops below its normal level; (2) resistance - this stage develops where the adrenal cortex secretes protective corticosteroids, and where the body becomes highly susceptible to additional and unrelated stresses; and (3) exhaustion - this stage occurs if the danger from stress is prolonged, and the individual may become seriously ill and die. The GAS has been observed in cases of prolonged exposure to psychological (e.g., maternal separation), environmental (e.g., cold), and physiological (e.g. poison) types of stressors. However, newer research indicates that there are subtle differences in the body's reactions to different stressors, and one weakness of Selye's model is that it fails to account for cognitive processes in determining how individuals interpret a specific event to be stressful or not (cf., closed-loop model of stress - holds that stress occurs in the context of a systems model/theory, which suggests that dynamic feedback patterns control a variety of behaviors and indicate the organism's capacity for stability and order; the closed-loop model is in contrast to Selye's open-loop model that views stress as a static system where stressors act cumulatively on a passive organism; environmental-load theory posits that humans have a limited capacity to handle environmental stress factors, where capacity is determined by the amount of information inputs that can be processed by the person's central nervous system; when the load exceeds the person's processing capacity, the central nervous system responds by ignoring some inputs; in contrast to the load theory, the environmental-stress theory holds that autonomic and cognitive/perceptual factors combine to form an individual's appraisal of an environmental stress situation as either threatening or nonthreatening; cf., the concept of eustress that denotes a type of stress that has a positive, beneficial, or stimulating effect; for instance, the stress involved in getting a job promotion; and social-stress theory -holds that effects of certain glandular reactions are altered in some animals as the sizes of the groups increase beyond an optimal number, and social competition may lead to adrenal/glandular stresses that may produce behavioral and physiological deficits). Nevertheless, most medical experts agree with Se-lye's basic point that prolonged stress can produce physical deterioration (cf., the relatively recent field of behavioral medicine and its perspectives on stress). Extending from Selye's work on stress, also, is the development of the new field of study in psychology called psychoneuroimmunology (and health psychology) that seeks to examine how stress, emotions, and upsetting thoughts affect the body's immune system to make the individual more susceptible to disease. See also ACCOMMODATION, LAW/PRINCIPLE OF; CANNON/CANNON-BARD THEORY; CONFLICT, THEORIES OF; HABITUATION, PRINCIPLE/LAW OF; LAZARUS' THEORY OF EMOTIONS; PSYCHOSO-MATICS THEORY; SYSTEMS THEORY. REFERENCES

Cannon, W. B. (1929). Bodily changes in pain, hunger, fear, and rage. New York: Branford. Selye, H. (1936). A syndrome produced by diverse nocuous agents. Nature, 138, 32.

Selye, H. (1950). Stress. Montreal: Acta. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York:

McGraw-Hill. Selye, H. (1976). Stress in health and disease.

Toronto: Butterworth. Pomerleau, O., & Brady, J. (Eds.) (1979).

Behavioral medicine: Theory and practice. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.

Selye, H. (1980). Selye's guide to stress research. New York: Van Nostrand. Breznitz, S., & Goldberger, L. (1983). Handbook of stress. New York: Free Press.

O'Leary, A. (1990). Stress, emotion, and human immune function. Psychologi-calBulletin, 108, 363-382. Taylor, S. (1990). Health psychology. American Psychologist, 45, 40-50.

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    Is selyes stress theory standard practice?
    8 months ago
  • Asphodel Puddifoot
    How Selye’s theory of stress can be used to enhance NP practice?
    6 months ago

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