General Adaption Syndrome – How to Deal with Stress

Stress. It’s something that every human being goes through at one point in their life or another, often multiple times and sometimes over a prolonged period. The universal human response to stress has been dubbed the “general adaptation syndrome” or GAS for short.

General Adaptation Syndrome Stages

It has three stages. The general adaptation syndrome, or the GAS response to stress has three stages, and we’re going to go over those now. The first stage is called stimulation. At this stage, the stress has been introduced to the person and their body responds by the hypothalamus stimulating the adrenal medulla to release epinephrine, or adrenaline.

Epinephrine and adrenaline are the same thing. Depending on what part of the world you’re in, they’re going to favor one or the other. Epinephrine is the Greek-derived word for this hormone and adrenaline is the Latin-derived word for this hormone. They’re the same thing.

The hypothalamus stimulates the adrenal medulla and releases epinephrine, the glucose level rises, the heart and respiration rates increase, and the individual becomes alarmed. We’ve all experienced this.

Stress comes in, things heat up, adrenaline or epinephrine is released, the heart rate goes up, the respiration goes up, and the person is in a state of readiness, alarm, fight or flight in some way. The GAS response is managed by the adrenal and the pituitary glands. The first level is stimulation.

If the stress is not resolved at this level, then the second stage that the general adaptation syndrome goes to is resistance. At this stage, the body resists the stress by returning respiration and heart rates to baseline. The hypothalamus commands the pituitary gland to release ACTH, a hormone that causes the adrenal cortex to release cortisol.

Cortisol is a chemical that maintains high levels of blood glucose. This is, once again, the body’s attempt to deal with whatever is bringing about the stress. Stimulation puts a person in an alarmed or heightened state. It persists. Resistance comes in, the body’s trying to bring things into line, into a normal state.

Once again, the hypothalamus is critical to all this. In the initial stage, it stimulates the adrenal medulla to release epinephrine. In the next state, it commands a pituitary gland to release the hormone ACTH, which causes the adrenal cortex to release cortisol to keep the blood glucose levels high.

Finally, if the stress is not resolved, the third stage for the general adaptation, or GAS syndrome, is exhaustion. Here, the pituitary and adrenal glands are utterly fatigued. The physiological processes start to break down, and it is at this stage right here, this exhaustion stage, that if it is prolonged, it is most damaging to health.

Stress management is extremely important. Stress comes into everyone’s life. The universal response of every human being experiencing various levels of stress has been generalized as the GAS adaptation, or the general adaptation syndrome. It has three stages: Stimulation, resistance, and then Exhaustion, the stage being the most damaging to health.

The hypothalamus is involved in this. First stage, releasing epinephrine. Second stage, releasing ACTH in order to get cortisol to come out and raise the blood glucose levels. Finally, when the pituitary and adrenal glands are utterly fatigued, everything begins to break down and the health begins to deteriorate.



by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: January 31, 2024