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Section A.3 - Human Stress

A. The Stress Response Generally

     1. Hans Selye

Stress has never been a popular topic in medicine. It was not even identified as a force in human health until the 1930’s, long after other parts of modern medicine had advanced significantly. Even today, the effect of stress on humans is a subject that is under researched and under appreciated. This is so largely because of 1) the vast number of stressors that exist in our world and the fact that they act in concert to challenge human biology – it is very difficult to separate a single stressor from the hundreds of other stress effects, and 2) the vast complexity of the human stress response and its interactions with many other biological systems in the human body including the immune system, the nervous system, and the gastroenterological system.

Hans Selye was the physician who originally discovered the actions of the stress response. He accomplished this because he was a different type of doctor. When he was a 19 year old medical student, his class was presented with a series of patients who had widely different illnesses. However, Selye noticed that they had many similar symptoms: 

Why is it, I asked myself, that such widely different diseases, produced by agents such as those that cause measles, scarlet fever, or the flu, share with a number of drugs, allergens, and other factors the property of evoking highly similar nonspecific manifestations. Yet evidently they do share them; indeed, they share them to such an extent that, at an early stage, it might be quite impossible to distinguish between various diseases...

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