Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

2020 Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

General Adaptation Syndrome

  • György BaffyEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24612-3_753



General adaptation syndrome denotes a nonspecific and predictable bodily response to various external agents (“stressors”) and consists of three successive phases: alarm reaction, stage of resistance, and stage of exhaustion.


The term of general adaptation syndrome was coined by Hans Selye (1907–1982), an Austro-Hungarian endocrinologist. Selye worked at McGill University in Montreal when he made his initial and somewhat serendipitous observations. In a pursuit of identifying novel sex hormones, he discovered that ovarian extracts administered to rats evoked a triad of pathologic changes (adrenal enlargement, thymo-lymphatic tissue atrophy, and gastrointestinal ulcerations). Intriguingly, administration of placental, pituitary, and other tissue extracts as well as a large variety of physical and chemical irritants induced similar changes. In 1936, Selye published his early...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and VA Boston Healthcare SystemHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Julie Schermer
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Western OntarioLondonCanada