Stress: Does It Scar?
In today’s time to go like a bomb to the bolt from the blue is nothing but a compulsion and that has gained us an innate familiarity with the word, “stress”. It’s quite a task to recognize between the patterns of tension that can determine itself to a far more prolonged nature of severity that we commonly refer to as “stress’’.
However, despite facing a lot of hindrances there are several ways where we can bring ourselves to discern several stress-worthy cues all and around us that can expand itself to grow into the potential of causing stress. The stressors can exert its influence on us through several inconceivable ways. It can alter our emotional states and deprive us of our general well-being, behavior and health by influencing them to thwart.
Stress in its acute form shall not pose itself beyond a healthy burden on individuals who otherwise are young and have a considerable healthy physical wellbeing. However, it has been noted that on unhealthy or aged people, its influences could be quite impairing if the threat seems unremitting. Thus, we can firmly establish a close tie-in between the quantity of stressors, the severity of its nature and the biological vulnerability of the person.
There have been several built psychological resources or rather learned patterns of coping in simpler words that can enable us to fathom stress up to an extent. There have been plenty of interventions that have proven it’s as advantageous for treating chronic stress related illness.
Pivoting on Hans Selye’s pioneering model on stress, Lazarus (1974) very prominently distinguished “Eustress” from “Distress”.
- Eustress mostly refers to the quality or quantity of stress that can pose itself to be useful to us by enhancing our motivational capacity to function more productively. It also refers to itself as positive stress as it functions with our coping ability and is also mostly short-lived.
- However, Distress refers to extremity in the nature of stress that is capable of causing severe anxiety and derails our functioning capacity. It is the type, which is efficient in creating trauma and agitation and hence can never pose itself to improve one’s performance.
It has been made eminent that the maintenance of viability, that is life, critically depends on the structuring of our internal locale as constant in the face of all changing societal bulldozers that surround us.
Cannon (1929), has referred to this internal milieu as ‘’homeostasis’’. The evolution of nature has provided us with note-worthy effective mechanisms of homeostasis and thereby stressors producing acute stress responses in healthy, young individuals do not really impose a severe burden. The dire effects of chronic stress are seen to be persistent in people due to their high ability of symbolic thought as it can elicit these stressors to impede working capacity and can cause adversity in living conditions.
Who Is Hans Selye? What Is the Focus of His Study?
Hans Selye, was the pioneer to coin the term “stress” to relate to the corollary of anything that can cause the homeostasis to be jeopardized. His theory yielded a triad of surprising findings. The threat that an individual is exposed to, is to be referred to as “stressor” and the immediate response that it causes is called, “stress-response”.
However, stress responses were more or less capable of evolving itself to adapt with the stressor but the prolonged nature of it can lead to severe ailment and trauma. Selye was the first ever scientist to identify ‘stress’ as a stimulating response to all the nonspecific signs and symptoms of stress. The concept of stress got into Selye’s life as an outturn of his fellowship at McGill, when prof. Collip gave him the task of discovering the various female sex hormones that were obscure at that time.
Through the course of his experiment, Selye located a close resemblance between Claude Bernard’s milieu intérieur and Canon’s concept of homeostasis and stated the relation between them as piercing and devised the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to the way the body coped with stress.
Selye’s theory proposed that stress existed in an individual throughout the period of exhibition to non-specific insistence. Selye ingeniously distinguished the acute or rather chronic nature of stress from the composite response that we exhibit toward chronic stressors, referring to the latter as General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).
The Gas Model was recognized to be the nucleus of Selye’s proposition. Selye’s syndrome partitions the composite response to stress in three parts, namely:
- The alarm reaction.
- The stage of resistance.
When an individual is exposed to a stressor of whatsoever kind, at first, they’re inevitably taken as inattentive and thereafter they prepare themselves to maintain their internal balance or homeostasis.
However, with the escalating nature of the stressor, one falls prey to it resulting in the stage of exhaustion. Stress is a premeditated set of events that jars wellbeing, not just a mere psychological term. It fundamentally differs itself depending upon the complexities of the stressors one is exposed to and how one chooses to elevate their guards to respond to it. It can vary from a wide range of flight responses to fight responses depending upon the urgency of the perceived threat, as first caught sight by physiologist Walter Canon in 1915. The parlour release of hormones from the medulla and the adrenal cortex along with the let out of the neurotransmitters from the central nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system arbitrate the consequences of acute stress.
The close proximity between stress and disease is thoroughly recognized nowadays, but this did not seem prevalent earlier. The word “stress” was established in the area of physics where it defined the intercourse between force and the resistance as a counter-consequence of it. Hans Selye was the first to incorporate the term into a medical thesaurus by referring to it as the “non-specific response of the body to any demand “.
Selye undisputedly is called to be the pioneer of stress-research as he coined the term under the umbrella of mental health and repudiated the study of certain specific symptoms underlying illness. He acutely focused on the reaction of the patients to illness that is established to be universal. His far-flung knowledge on psychology and science laid several factions alike, in far-away fields such as endocrinology, social psychology, complementary medicine etc.
Selye’s relentless endeavour was sharply evident in all his publications and articles. He continues to be recognized as one of the most unconventional and unprecedented scientists with an invigorating personality and he referred to himself as more experimental than being engrossed in the realms of clinical and medicinal science.
He was found to be influenced by interrelation between stress and cancer, so and so that he used his own personal experience as a rare primary bone tumor (called, histiocytic reticulosarcoma) was formed under his skin and as a consequence of which he had to undergo surgery and radioactive cobalt therapy.
Apart from being a Nobel Prize winner in the year of 1949, he is known as the founder of the Indian National Institute of Stress and also created the Canadian Institute of Stress along with the Hans Selye Foundation.
Selye’s Proposition: General Adaptation Syndrome
The General Adaptation Syndrome has brought a wide range of seemingly unrelated concepts under the same unifying umbrella. Hans Selye brought his attention to the work of Claude Bernard, who was the first to usher in the gravity of “milieu interieur”, which is maintaining one’s internal balance.
Selye also very cleverly exposed himself to Cannon’s concept of “homeostasis”, Dustin’s observations on “Caryoclsatic Positions”, “the postoperative disease”, “the curative action of fever” and many more.
Earlier, all these concepts belonged to different parasols and it never felt perceptible to bring them under one unified biological system. Their integration into a singular unified physiological system gave way to new light to the field of psychology and that in turn ushered the significance of stress. In the very initial junctures, a lot many researches were devoted to bringing all seemingly contrasting concepts under one unified system and focused on building several bridges to integrate them into a unified system of physiological and pathological events as Selye always thought of them to be intertwined in some nature. Thereby, comprehending the significance of their unity, Selye helped us learn how we can bank on these associations to cure illness and understand life.
The key of this association was the canon that how distinct living organisms give their responses to stress and how the basic mechanisms of doing so don’t really differ. Selye firmly held that irrespective of the nature or quantity of the stressor, the physiological mechanisms of responding to them for any living organism always remained the same. He referred to this response as the General Adaptation Syndrome. It was observed that almost everything that endangers life produced stress, unless it was met by adequate adaptive forces.
Adapting and resisting all stress-worthy agents in the environment is very critical for life and all pathological systems along with the vital organs of one’s body takes part in the process. Stress as an occurrence is quite common and if it prolongs then it continues to cause mental fatigue, insomnia and irritability.
While stress manages to cause wreckage and havoc in our system, GAS (General Adaptation Syndrome) elevates our bodily processes in response to these stressors. Selye, surmised that in order to devise a well-segmented theory on stress, it was obligatory for him to study its relevance with a diverse range of branches such as, medicinal science, pathological anatomy, clinical medicine, biochemistry and psychology. He critically researched on all these fractions and harboured the prominence of stress in both normal and abnormal life.
Principles Of General Adaptation Syndrome
General Adaptation Syndrome, unlike many specific defense reactions (for example, adaptation to cold, formation of antibodies and so on) there is quite an integrated syndrome of different intertwined adaptive responses to non-specific stress in itself. This adaptive syndrome in response to the non-specific nature of stress is referred to as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS-model) as coined by Hans Selye.
It grows itself to consist of three stages, the alarm reaction; The stage of resistance; The stage of exhaustion. The reactive characteristics of the first stage seems to be absent or reversed. In the second stage but however has evidently been seen to present in the final stage, which is the stage of exhaustion.
This advocates the ability of all living organisms to revamp itself in the face of a changing or rapidly growing environment. It was said to be the “adaptive strategy” of living beings and the magnitude of it substantially depends on the genetic composition of the organism. The defense mechanisms of the GAS-model comprises both passive and active mechanisms to react to several non-specific kinds of stress. This particular characteristic of stress elicits the General Adaptation Syndrome in an intrinsic manner. In a physiological sense, Selye meant stress as nothing but an interaction between the damage it does to the body and the defense that is in store for it. It has also been duly noted that every stressor is also capable of producing certain specific actions which can very accurately be distinguished from their expected stressor reactions. Hence, there is no exact way GAS would manifest itself, it is more likely to depend on the nature of stressor stimulus.
The GAS is an integral mechanism to respond to all the diverse stressors the environment has in store for us and it encompasses superimposed specific actions to elicit the stressors.
The Stages Of General Adaptation Syndrome:
1. The Alarm Reaction Stage: The alarm reaction stage refers to the symptoms that were initially exhibited by the organism. Earlier, as we have already been familiar with the phrase “flight or fight”, the alarm reaction stage takes us to basal physiological mechanisms involved in countering stress when first met.
It prepares us to intake the stressor and decide if we want to fight the stressor and admit ourselves to it by turning it to be beneficial for us as noted during Eustress or if we flee the situation as we feel the stressor is capable of inflicting trauma and anxiety. In this stage there were a diverse range of biological imbalances like, increasing heart rate and palpitation, a sudden boost of adrenaline due to the release of Cortisol which is known to be stress hormone etc.
2. The Stage Of Resistance: As we proceed to the second stage of this model, our body has already faced the initial turmoil due to the stressor and our physiological mechanisms launch its defenses to halt the derailment that stress can cause. It reduces the flow of the Cortisol hormone from adrenal glands and that results in normalizing our other primary biological parameters.
Thus, if we accomplish in coping with stress and the stress no longer feels tensile, our body continues to heal itself until all our primary parameters (like heart rate, release of Cortisol and so on) reach a pre-stress state. However, as we noted earlier that stress varies in itself and there could be ample number of ways in which we could get affected. The way we harbour stress, depends on both our physical and emotional wellbeing. Prolonged stress periods continue to keep our body on high alert and eventually we can learn adaptive ways to admit ourselves to the stress through the process of achieving harmony. Prolonged stress levels if not managed properly can scar us for life and go on tormenting us.
3. The Stage Of Exhaustion: The stage of exhaustion arrives when one’s body feels depleted of its resources as it proceeds further from the stage of resistance by depriving the body of all its repairing forces. However, as we earlier learned that if the body succeeds to heal itself from the stressing agent and the primordial threat is gone then the stage of exhaustion is not likely to take place and the organism continues to advance towards recovery. When the body suffers from the loss of energy and it no longer has the ability to cope with stress. Thereby, one’s coping mechanisms can no longer manifest itself to heal and one feels enervated with a debilitating emotional and physical wellbeing. As we struggle through for a prolonged period of stress, we carry on feeling more augmenting anxiety, fatigue, and worry to a point where we can no longer flee or fight the threat.
Hans Selye On Coping with Stress Through the Model Of Gas:
Hans Selye was the first ever scientist to recognize Stress as a “response”, as he defined “stress” as a “physiological response pattern” and it was quite aptly apprehended in his model of General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). Selye also called stress to be a variable of dependent nature and comprised of three notions such as, stress being referred to as a “defense mechanism”, how it always continues to proceed from one stage of “alarm reaction” to the following “stage of resistance”, and how prolonged periods of stress can manifest trauma due to the “exhaustion” of one’s healing mechanism.
Selye has also harvested the concept of the idea of stress being dependent on one’s cognitive interpretations of all the psychological structures and the physical symptoms surrounding the stressor agent. The nature of stress being negative or positive depends upon how an individual goes about manifesting it.
As we pondered over earlier, positively assessed stress refers to Eustress and the one that is negatively assessed refers to Distress. It is the latter that is known for throwing an individual in a whirl. Hans Selye exhibited the concept of stress being a construct or a response of psychological nature. It was based on his ingenious model, Lazarus and Folkman devised a more implausible theory on “cognitive appraisals” which was built around the idea that “an individual believes he or she has the resources to respond effectively to the challenges of a stressor’’.
Lazarus’s theory distinguished coping styles for being problem-focused and emotion-focused. It also formulated the several appraisals (primary appraisals and secondary appraisals) that one engages in coping with stress. It was empirically proven that one’s coping abilities precisely depended on the appraisal mechanisms chosen by the individual. Hence, the field of psychology continues to be indebted to Hans Selye for his breakthrough model.
Seyle: Truly, The Father of Stress Theory
Seyle’s persistent work dynamics was evidently observed in all his publications. Throughout his life he has crafted more than 1500 articles and more than 50 books. He was known to be one of the most novel, experimental scientists who continued to exhibit an invigorating personality. He often foresaw himself as someone who shouldn’t be famous for involving himself with clinical medicine instead of experimental medicine. His breakthrough intervention of delving into the close relevance between stress and cancer.
He was also celebrated to be the pioneer of stress psychology, as he invented the association between physical and emotional wellbeing. He was nominated for The Nobel prize award in 1949, along with publishing his most eulogized book called, “The Stress of Life” in the year 1956. He also won several accolades and was a renowned professor and director in the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery at the University of Montreal. He successfully also founded the International Institute of Stress, alongside the Hans Selye Foundation and the Canadian Institute of Stress. His rejuvenating personality helped him in sustaining his pioneering work for which he still continues to be commemorated.
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