The Stress of Life

stress of life book by Hans SelyeThe Stress of Life, a classic book written by Hans Selye, the physician-scientist who introduced the term (psychological) “stress”, formulated the entire theoretical concept and dedicated his entire scientific career to furnish more and more proof for the importance of neuroendocrine mechanisms in the development of disease.

János Hugo Bruno “Hans” Selye (January 26, 1907 – October 16, 1982) was a pioneering researcher and endocrinologist. He is considered by many as the ‘father of the stress research field’ in modern medicine, and the scientist who introduced and developed the stress concept.

According to Gerald Weissmann, Selye pursued two careers, i.e. experimental pathology and public relations, and he was a success at both; also Selye endorsed ‘stress’ as “the major cause, mode of transmission and treatment of most human ills, be they mental or physical”.

Hans Selye is the author of 33 books, including The Stress of Life; From Dream to Discovery: On Being a Scientist (1964), Hormones and Resistance: Part 1 and Part 2 (1971), Stress without Distress (1974), Selye’s Guide to Stress Research (1983), and Stress in Health and Disease (2013).

Selye wrote The Stress of Life in 1956. “The main purpose of this book is to tell, in a generally understandable language, what medicine has learned about stress….” Here, Selye explains the general-adaptation-syndrome concept of stress. This is the revised and updated version.

This classic book divides into five main parts:

  • The Discovery of Stress – describes the evolution of the stress concept.
  • The Dissection of Stress – “the mechanism through which our body is attacked by, and can defend itself against, stress-producing situations” is outlined.
  • The Diseases of Adaptation – “deals with maladies… which we consider to result largely from failures in the stress-fighting mechanism.”
  • Sketch for a Unified Theory – here, Selye describes “The search for unification; How could the stress concept lead to a more unified interpretation  of biology and medicine, and Apologia for teleologic thought in biology and medicine”.
  • Implications and Applications – where Selye discusses the medical implications of the stress concept, and the psychosomatic and philosophic implications, and “the road ahead”.

516 pages; McGraw-Hill; 2nd edition (March 1, 1978); 1st edition: New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956

AUTHOR: Hans Selye

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