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Stress, Shock, and Adaptation in the Twentieth Century

Stress, Shock, and Adaptation in the Twentieth Century

David Cantor
Edmund Ramsden
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 422
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  • Book Info
    Stress, Shock, and Adaptation in the Twentieth Century
    Book Description:

    The modern concept of stress is commonly traced to the physiologist, Hans Selye. Selye viewed stress as a physiological response to a significant or unexpected change, describing a series of stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion, when an organism's adaptive mechanisms finally failed. While Selye originally focused on nonspecific physiological responses to harmful agents, the stress concept has since been used to examine the relationship between a variety of environmental stressors and mental disorders and chronic organic diseases such as hypertension, gastric ulcers, arthritis, allergies, and cancer. This edited volume brings together leading scholars to explore the emergence and development of the stress concept and its ever-changing definitions. It examines how the concept has been used to connect disciplines such as ecology, physiology, psychology, psychiatry, public health, urban planning, architecture, and a range of social sciences; its application in a variety of sites such as the battlefield, workplace, clinic, hospital, and home; and the emergence of techniques of stress management in a variety of different socio-cultural and scientific locations. Contributors: Theodore M. Brown, David Cantor, Otniel E. Dror, Rhodri Hayward, Mark Jackson, Robert G. W. Kirk, Junko Kitanaka, Tulley Long, Joseph Melling, Edmund Ramsden, Elizabeth Siegel Watkins, Allan Young. David Cantor is Acting Director, Office of History, National Institutes of Health. Edmund Ramsden is Research Fellow at the Centre for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-835-0
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Psychology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    David Cantor and Edmund Ramsden

    Forty years ago American sociologist Alvin Toffler predicted that the rate of change in modern civilization would accelerate to such a degree that it would be impossible for individuals to adapt. Toffler would famously call this anxiety “Future Shock”: shattering stress and disorientation leading to social, psychological, even physiological breakdown.¹ He had based his predictions on scientific studies, most notably the work of the physiologist Hans Selye. An architect of the modern concept of “stress,” Selye argued that adaptations such as corticosteroids could be maladaptive when the body was under constant distress. He described a “general adaptation syndrome” comprising three...

  5. Part One: Packaging Stress

    • Chapter One Evaluating the Role of Hans Selye in the Modern History of Stress
      (pp. 21-48)
      Mark Jackson

      According to many stress researchers, as well as historians, modern biological formulations of stress can be traced back to a brief and rather speculative article written by the Austrian-born Hungarian scientist Hans Selye (1907–82) in 1936. The article set out what appeared to be a characteristic triphasic pattern of nonspecific physiological responses to injury: the “general adaptation syndrome” comprised an initial alarm phase that was followed by a stage of resistance or adaptation, leading eventually to a stage of exhaustion and death.¹ Within traditional narratives of stress history, which have often been written by researchers themselves and which portray...

    • Chapter Two Stress and the American Vernacular: Popular Perceptions of Disease Causality
      (pp. 49-70)
      Elizabeth Siegel Watkins

      FASEB Journal, the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, is a well-known scholarly publication dedicated to the experimental biological and biomedical sciences. It publishes highly technical reports of the latest results of research on molecular and cellular physiology, immunology, and the like. It may thus have come as somewhat of a surprise to subscribers to find Paris Hilton as the subject of an editorial in the September 2007 issue. The journal’s editor in chief used his monthly editorial space to trace the lineage of stress from Hans Selye to Paris Hilton. Hans Selye is, of course,...

  6. Part Two: Trauma and Acute Stress

    • Chapter Three Resilience for All by the Year 20–
      (pp. 73-95)
      Allan Young

      The following pages describe the historical transformation of the posttraumaticneurosisinto a now-familiar post-traumaticstressdisorder. My approach is ethnographic in that I have emphasized transformations in epistemologies—specifically what counts as evidence and what is either taken for granted or altogether ignored. While it is important to follow how these transformations occurred, it is not useful to stick to a unilinear chronological sequence. I begin in 1980, with the publication ofDSM-IIIand the debut of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD was the first (and remains the only)standardizedandobligatoryversion of a posttraumatic syndrome in the...

    • Chapter Four From Primitive Fear to Civilized Stress: Sudden Unexpected Death
      (pp. 96-118)
      Otniel E. Dror

      In 1942 Walter B. Cannon, head of the Department of Physiology at the Harvard Medical School, published his now-famous essay, “‘Voodoo’ Death.” In this study Cannon elucidated the mechanisms responsible for the detrimental physiological effects of “magic” spells or “voodoo” rituals in “primitive” societies.¹ Cannon’s voodoo-death essay became a model for psychosomatic effects and interrelationships.

      During the interwar period, physiologists, clinicians, and anthropologists relegated voodoo deaths to the non-West and distinguished between Western and the “primitive” by defining the West as a culture that was exempt from spell-induced deaths.² Postwar authors took a radically different stance: they instead transformed voodoo...

  7. Part Three: War

    • Chapter Five “Stress” in US Wartime Psychiatry: World War II and the Immediate Aftermath
      (pp. 121-141)
      Theodore M. Brown

      In the developing literature on the history of “stress,” scholars over the past two decades have begun to point to World War II as a major turning point. Gerald Grob and Robert Kugelmann, for example, both writing in the early 1990s, clearly stated that the war served as a watershed for American psychiatrists. Grob claimed, “Many psychiatrists . . . came to some novel conclusions . . . [one of which was] that environmental stress associated with combat contributed to mental maladjustment. . . . That environmental factors played a major role in the etiology of mental disorders was to...

    • Chapter Six The Machinery and the Morale: Physiological and Psychological Approaches to Military Stress Research in the Early Cold War Era
      (pp. 142-186)
      Tulley Long

      During World War II the US military launched an extensive initiative aimed at fighting the debilitating phenomenon of combat stress in its ranks. Even after the war, however, as Cold War tensions threatened to erupt in Korea, the prevention of soldier breakdown due to the psychological or emotional pressures of combat continued to present an urgent problem, and the military was keen to draw on any available tool to increase the effectiveness of soldiers on the battlefield. While psychology and psychiatry had provided certain insights during World War II on how morale and leadership could help to mitigate soldier failure,...

  8. Part Four: Work

    • Chapter Seven Making Sense of Workplace Fear: The Role of Physicians, Psychiatrists, and Labor in Reframing Occupational Strain in Industrial Britain, ca. 1850–1970
      (pp. 189-221)
      Joseph Melling

      At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimated that five million UK employees experienced “stress” as a result of their work. Stress was defined as an individual’s adverse reaction to external pressures, though such personal experiences varied in similar conditions. The impact of stress included high absenteeism, increased labor turnover, poor morale, difficult labor relations, and increased risks of accidents and illness. The cost of stress-related illness reported by half a million Britons was estimated at £3.7 billion per year.¹ Britain was only one among many developed countries swept by an epidemic of industrial...

    • Part Five: Managing Stress

      • Chapter Nine The Invention of the “Stressed Animal” and the Development of a Science of Animal Welfare, 1947–86
        (pp. 241-263)
        Robert G. W. Kirk

        In Britain, as elsewhere in the 1950s, it had become “fashionable to assert” that there was “an increase in the incidence of mental disorders and that the cause of this is the increased stress of modern life.” Some medical professionals feared this trend to be self-fulfilling, warning that “mental health propaganda was “instilling a phobia for the inevitable stresses of life.”¹ The language of stress was certainly ubiquitous at this time, not least within the various branches of the biomedical sciences. In the wake of Hans Selye’s general adaptation syndrome, stress had quickly become a conceptual space in which the...

      • Chapter Ten Memorial’s Stress? Arthur M. Sutherland and the Management of the Cancer Patient in the 1950s
        (pp. 264-288)
        David Cantor

        Writing in 1952, Arthur M. Sutherland characterized the psychology of the cancer patient as “the psychology of a person under a special and severe form of stress in which many fundamental underlying emotionally charged convictions are brought to the surface.” Sutherland, a psychiatrist at Memorial Hospital in New York, was interested in how patients adapted to the disease and its treatment. In his view people responded to such stresses in ways that were maladaptive in that they undermined successful treatment and recovery. As he noted in the same 1952 article, “Stresses are often met postoperatively by avoidance or denial, or...

    • Part Six: Surveilling Stress

      • Chapter Eleven Stress in the City: Mental Health, Urban Planning, and the Social Sciences in the Postwar United States
        (pp. 291-319)
        Edmund Ramsden

        The city has long been perceived as a pathological space, a cause of deviance, sickness, and delinquency. Its various social and psychological problems have often been associated with its physical structures and conditions. Perhaps the most famous sociological statement on the city, Louis Wirth’s “Urbanism as a Way of Life,” identified size, density, and heterogeneity as resulting in superficiality, alienation, anomie, and various forms of social and psychological breakdown.¹ This chapter focuses on a diverse group of social and behavioral scientists, biologists, psychiatrists, architects, and planners concerned with rectifying the problems associated with urban life. From the mid-1950s they were...

      • Chapter Twelve Sadness in Camberwell: Imagining Stress and Constructing History in Postwar Britain
        (pp. 320-342)
        Rhodri Hayward

        Implicit within every model of stress is a particular understanding of time. Stress disorders, in their myriad forms, are variously attributed to the fears and terrors of an anticipated future, the pressure of present circumstances, or traumas arising from events buried deep in the individual’s past. They are also associated with temporal experience being connected to the increased velocity of life or its slowing down through long episodes of boredom or sensory deprivation. Psychosomatic medicine, in its various forms and iterations over the past two hundred years, has sustained these different temporalities through reference to a rich armamentarium of psychological...

    • List of Contributors
      (pp. 343-346)
    • Index
      (pp. 347-368)
    • Back Matter
      (pp. 369-369)