Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Teo


  • Dana Becker
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5583-7_301


Ideas about what is stressful, the toll stress takes on body and mind, and how to manage stress seem omnipresent in the West, particularly in the USA. Stress is a protean concept that can represent a situation or event, a psychological or physiological state, or an emotion, and this diffuseness gives it great versatility as a vehicle for explaining human dilemmas. Contemporary ideas about stress hearken back to the nineteenth century when George Beard (1881), the “father” of neurasthenia, made an alarming connection between the pressures of middle-class life and nervous illness, insisting that the amount and character of the stress Americans experienced was exceptional (Gosling, 1987).


Centuries ago, stress stood for what was difficult and had to be suffered. The image was often that of a ship tossed about by the stress of bad weather, neither challenging the forces outside it nor wholly separate from them (Kugelmann, 1992). Facing stress demanded strength and...

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


  1. Aronowitz, R. A. (1998). Making sense of illness: science, society, and disease. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Beard, G. M. (1881/1972). American nervousness: Its causes and consequences. New York: Arno Press.Google Scholar
  3. Becker, D. (2010). Women’s work and the societal discourse of stress. Feminism and Psychology, 20, 36–52.Google Scholar
  4. Becker, D. (2013). One nation under stress: The trouble with stress as an idea. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cannon, W. (1932). The wisdom of the body. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.Google Scholar
  6. Costa, P. T., Jr., & McRae, R. R. (1990). Personality: Another ‘hidden factor’ in stress research. Psychological Inquiry, 1(1), 22–24.Google Scholar
  7. Fineman, M. A. (2008). The vulnerable subject: anchoring equality in the human condition. Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 1, 1–21.Google Scholar
  8. Gore, S., & Colten, M. E. (1991). Gender, stress, and distress. In J. Eckenrode (Ed.), The social context of coping (pp. 139–163). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  9. Gosling, F. G. (1987). Before Freud: Neurasthenia and the American medical community, 1870–1910. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  10. Hacking, I. (2002). Historical ontology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Kugelmann, R. (1992). Stress: The nature and history of engineered grief. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  12. Lazarus, R. W. (1993). Why we should think of stress as a subset of emotion. In L. Goldberger & S. Breznitz (Eds.), Handbook of stress (2nd ed., pp. 21–39). New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  13. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  14. Martin, E. (1994). Flexible bodies: The role of immunity in American culture from the days of polio to the age of AIDS. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  15. Poovey, M. (1988). Uneven developments: The ideological work of gender in mid-Victorian England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  16. Riska, E. (2000). The rise and fall of type a man. Social Science and Medicine, 51, 1665–1674.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Rose, N., & Novas, C. (2005). Biological citizenship. In A. Ong & S. J. Collier (Eds.), Global assemblages: Technology, politics, and ethics as anthropological problems (pp. 439–463). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  18. Segerstrom, S. C., & Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological stress and the human immune system: A meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological Bulletin, 130(4), 601–630.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  20. Viner, R. (1999). Putting stress in life: Hans selye and the making of stress theory. Social Studies of Science, 29(3), 391–41.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social ResearchBryn Mawr CollegeBryn MawrUSA