- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Selye's syndrome

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Eponym used to indicate the sum of all reactions – physiological changes – that follow a prolonged exposure to intense stress. The typical pathologic findings are represented by adrenal cortical hyperplasia, thymic and lymphatic involution, gastrointestinal erosion or ulcers. The first two stages are the alarm reaction and the adaptation stage. If the stressor is not removed, the exhaustion stage and death will follow.

Selye first conceived this theory in 1936 after observing the reactions of animals exposed to a variety of non-specific damaging agents.

"The non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it."


  • H. Selye:
    The general adaptation syndrome.
    Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, Baltimore, 1946, 6: 177. The Physiology and Pathology of Exposure to Stress; a Treatise Based on the Concepts of the General-Adaptation Syndrome and the Diseases of Adaptation. Montreal, Acta Incorporated Medical Publishers, 1950. Einführung in die Lehre vom Adaptionssyndrom. Thieme, Stuttgart, 1953. The Stress of Life. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1956. Hormones and resistance. Springer; Heidelberg, New York, 1971.

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