What Is Stress? Part One

Taken from “What Do Lions Know About Stress? (1996)

“What is stress?” Choua asked.
“Hans Selye, the noted stress researcher, defined stress as fight or flight response,” I replied.
“What does that mean?”
“What it says—that stress is a physiologic response when a person faces a threat and has to flee or dig his heels and fight it out.”
“What does that mean?” he repeated.
“Everyone knows what stress is, but defining it is something else. Indeed, most of us can relate to stress only when we recognize its absence. To paraphrase Tolstoy, all absence of stress is the same, yet each stress is different in its own way.”
“What happens in stress? I mean physically,” he pressed.
“Selye called it a nonspecific response to a demand for change. It is a set of changes in various body organs, such as rapid breathing and heart rate that cause anxiety and other symptoms.”
“How do you know stress causes such changes?”
“What is distress and what is eustress?”
“Selye also divided stress into two types: distress and eustress. He described distress as demands on the body to adapt that exceed its capacity for adaptation. This excessive demand results in damage and disease. Selye considered eustress as the amount of demand on the body to adapt that promotes health—an optimal level of stress, so to speak.”
“How do you know what bodily changes are the result of a demand for change?”
“That has been worked out well with animal research experiments,” I explained.
“Animal research experiments,” Choua repeated after me slowly, then continued. “Are you talking about those gruesome experiments in which hapless animals are mutilated?”
“I wouldn’t put it in those harsh terms,” I protested.
“Experiments in which researchers burn, poison or remove one or more body organs of an animal with the pretense of research,” he continued, ignoring my protest.
“How else do you conduct research?” I asked with irritation.
“Like the experiments in which some parts of cats’ brains were destroyed. Then the decerebrate animals were lifted several feet from the ground and dropped to see how their bodies landed—on their paws or heads,” Choua grimaced.
“You make those scientific experiments sound gory. What else could a physiologist do? Practice such experiments on humans?”
“Those researchers realized that cats have sharp instincts that can prevent head injury even when some parts of their brains have been destroyed,” he sidestepped my question. “Then there were other experiments in which the smell apparatus of rats were ablated. What do you call that—some sort of bulbectomy?”
“Olfactory,” I replied. “Olfactory bulbectomy.”

Read more at: http://childrenshealthcorps.org/what_stress_part_one.htm


Part two of two

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