Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner

General Adaptation Syndrome

  • Tavis S. CampbellEmail author
  • Jillian A. Johnson
  • Kristin A. Zernicke
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_1135



The general adaptation syndrome (GAS) is a theory of stress responding proposed by  Hans Selye. It refers to the nonspecific, generalized responses of the body in response to stress and provides a framework for the link between stress and chronic illness (Selye, 1956). This syndrome is divided into three stages: alarm reaction, resistance, and exhaustion.


 Hans Selye (1907–1982), known as “the father” of the stress field, was a Hungarian endocrinologist who emigrated to Montreal, Canada, in 1932. He pioneered research on the biological effects of exposure to “noxious agents,” or stress, subsequently developing the concept of the general adaptation syndrome.


 Selye first wrote about the general adaptation syndrome in the British journal Naturein 1936 when he was an assistant at McGill University’s Biochemistry Department in Montreal. In an experiment designed to discover a new hormone, he injected...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References and Readings

  1. Selye, H. (1936). A syndrome produced by nocuous agents. Nature, 138, 32.Google Scholar
  2. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  3. Selye, H. (1974). Stress without distress. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott.Google Scholar
  4. Selye, H. (1976). Stress in health and disease. Reading, MA: Butterworths.Google Scholar
  5. Selye, H. (1982). History and present status of the stress concept. In L. Goldberger & S. Breznitz (Eds.), Handbook of stress: Theoretical and clinical aspects (pp. 7–17). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  6. Szabo, S. (1985). The creative and productive life of Hans Selye: A review of his major scientific discoveries. Experientia, 41, 564–567.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tavis S. Campbell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jillian A. Johnson
    • 1
  • Kristin A. Zernicke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada