General Adaptation Syndrome

What is General Adaptation Syndrome?

The General Adaptation Syndrome or simplified as GAS is a response to stress which is composed of three stages. This was first described by a Canadian endocrinologist, Dr. Hans Selye – Austrian-born. He accordingly described this process as GAS, as to the effects of stressors to the body in general is manifested by a group of symptoms or specific symptoms that guarantees influence to a person. Dr. Hans Selye explained that general adaptation syndrome typically involves our nervous and endocrine systems. Endocrine system is responsible in releasing hormones responsible for the output of reactions.

General adaptation syndrome is noted to be a person’s short- and long-term reaction to stress (response to the demands that the environment requires of us). This syndrome is composed of a number of symptoms as it is also influenced by a number of factors. These are believed to be stressors, which may include physical, emotional and environmental.

The condition can be diagnosed descriptively from a person’s presenting symptoms. Once a person is adapting stress in a manner that is out of the normal context, it may be necessary to dive into the possible underlying conditions. Blood tests may be recommended in order to measure a person’s cortisol level, or the increase of their hormones triggered by stress. As it is also possible, others are recommended to be seen by psychiatrists so to assess a person’s adaptive levels from stress.


The symptoms of general adaptation syndrome entirely depend in each person’s adaptive skills. As common as it is, a person shall manifest these symptoms:

  • Increase in vital signs or decrease in the normal levels of vital signs.
  • Others would have bowel reactions. They tend to experience irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in concentration or there is difficulty in concentrating.
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss or alopecia


The stages of the general adaptation syndrome are the following:

Alarm/ fight or flight response

This is the immediate response to a stressor that would result to increase in one’s heart rate, blood pressure and respirations. In a situation wherein there is an increase of demand of a response, such as instances that one has an adrenaline rush. The increase in the person’s vital signs is a point that takes in stressors with the accompanying reaction. Simply, the person’s sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, one that acts in our fight and flight responses. A person and another may have a different reaction from a stimulator. It is possible that a person shall experience the opposite reaction, where the parasympathetic nervous system acts. Instead of an increase in ones vital signs, a person may have a lowered blood pressure, respirations, and decreased heart rate.


This stage of the general adaptation syndrome is influenced by the secretion of our adrenaline. This would then serve as a stimulator with accompanying physiological changes and reactions. When a person is at threat, normally a person would react immediately from the stressor that can change a person’s normal capacity into a higher level. But once an abnormality has been found in a person’s system, a reaction may be altered that would then complicate to things such as shock and mental disturbances.


This is also referred as resistance. Right after the alarm/ fight or flight response, a person can attain his or her relation phase. The pituitary shall then act to stop the secretion of hormones responsible for the alarm response. This would also entirely depend if a person is still exposed to the stressor responsible for starting the first stage. As the first reaction takes place, a person shall then slowly adapt to the stressor. This stage is also influenced by a factor. As a person ages, he may have a depleting adaptation reaction. A person can adapt differently from other people. In this stage, a person can take control of the situation right after the first response or take control of the given situation as required of them.


This is the stage wherein a person has exhausted all his or her efforts from the reaction he has given from a stressor. Usually, a person will have a depleted strength right after a stressor. Worst case scenarios come when great stressors have taken place which would usually end to death. Increased exposure to stress can provide a negative result to a person.


The primary cause of the general adaptation syndrome is stress. Basically the stress unrelieved in time can result to GAS. Factors that influences general adaptation syndrome includes that those of a person’s health, nutrition, sex, ages, race, socioeconomic status, and genetics. These are factors that are either can precipitate for a different reaction, while others are modifiable and unmodifiable traits. A person can vary from another in terms of their responses, it may be due to some underlying conditions or it may be rooted from a maladaptive disorder.


The treatment for this condition is basically aimed in order to reduce the given stress one has attained. There are strategies provided in order to reduce the stress levels of a person. In order to attain equilibrium, these given strategies and categories are done:

  • Knowing the signs of stress in order to avoid them. These signs include nausea, increase sweating, headache, indigestion, increased irritability, poor concentration and anxiety.
  • Avoiding the known or given stressors.
  • Changing a person’s reaction to stressors.
  • Stress relief. This can be attained by music therapy, aromatherapy, and massage or exercising. Deep breathing exercises, attending yoga sessions and exercises are helpful in relieving stress.

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