Selye defined stress as: “Stress is the nonspecific response of the body to any demand, whether it is caused by, or results in, pleasant or unpleasant conditions”

Selye identified three states of adaptation which a person goes through in their General Adaptation Syndrome in 1936. They are:

  1. Alarm
  2. Resistance
  3. Exhaustion

These stages are associated with particular biological markers such as changes in hormone patterns and the production of “stress hormones,” and the gradual depletion of the body’s energy resources.

In the Alarm state the body recognizes a challenge or threat and goes into the “fight or flight” response. Stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol are both produced.

In the Resistance state the body attempts to adapt to a challenging situation which is persisting. The coping or adaptation requires physiological resources, which may eventually get depleted.

If the Exhaustion state occurs, the stressful challenge has persisted too long. The immune system is impaired, long term damage and illness may result.

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