THE STRESS MYTH


 
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Published in Australia
by Ipsilon Publishing
10 Sellicks Beach Rd
Sellicks Beach SA 5174
South Australia
Australia
Phone 61 88556 3939


Publication Date May, 2000
$27.45 AU includes GST
ISBN 0646393707

Published in the US by
Science & HumanitiesPress
PO Box 7151
Chesterfield MO 63006-7151
(636) 394-4950
Psychologist Serge Doublet, PhD. debunks 'stress' by reviewing the whole story
ISBN: 1-888725-36-2 $24.95
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Publication date, June, 2000
286 pp. includes index, $24.95 US
Table of Contents
ISBN 1-888725-36-2

REVIEWERS' QUOTES

"Serge Doublet, has effectively, through his critical, and at times, most detailed examination of available evidence, demolished the concept of stress as a useful scientific construct."
  Professor Trevor Parmenter, Royal Rehabilitation Centre Ryde Australia

"A major dilemma for a book like this is the very breadth of the work. It is difficult enough to read several intellectual fields simultaneously in ways that have integrity in each, especially when the discourses of most are complex and obscure. It is even more difficult to combine such reading with sophisticated historical and sociological analysis within a philosophical framework.  A major issue for the thesis then is the extent to which Mr Doublet has rendered these fields in ways recognisable to their practitioners."
        Professor Richard Smith, Griffith University

"The style is very accessible.  The author writes well and argues points through very carefully and fully... I enjoyed reading the book."
        Anonymous reviewer for Routledge London

for a (very) short biography

WHY SHOULD YOU READ THIS BOOK?

Whether you believe in stress or not, reading The Stress Myth might help you to better understand  the concept.

If like many people you use the word but cannot easily explain what it is, reading the Stress Myth may be useful to you.
      (If so you are in good company,  to see what scientists and lay people are saying)

You may very well ask, what is different about The Stress Myth?  After all, there have been many books written about stress.  Most, if not all of them, have tried to explain what stress is, what it does to us and how to deal with it. Yet, on most occasions, the authors of these books have approached the concept of 'stress' saddled with three important limitations:

They have assumed the existence of stress

They have written about stress from a relatively narrow field of knowledge

They have taken for granted most of the evidence gathered by researchers in fields they were unfamiliar with

Their eagerness to prove the existence of stress, combined with their unfamiliarity with other areas of research on stress, has meant that they have not realised that often the 'stress' these other researchers were talking about was a different type of 'stress'.

But back to the original question: what is different about this book?

This book examines the concept of 'stress' in its entirety.  It tells the whole story about stress. Surprisingly, this has never been done before.  After reading hundreds of books, newspaper and journal articles from many fields of knowledge and perusing countless Web pages about stress on the Internet, it became obvious that there were many problems with the notion of 'stress'.  Incoherence, inaccuracy, contradiction, and confusion dominate the debate amongst 'experts' on stress.  The most worrying aspect is that many researchers seem to be unaware of the inaccuracy or the shortcomings of some of their claims. Others when challenged have meekly responded that perhaps the concept of 'stress' is not so useful after all. They have, nevertheless, continued to promote 'stress' as a geniune scientifically proven medical condition.

THE STRESS MYTH: the book.

The book begins with a description of all the various claims that have been made at the Popular level about diverse aspects of stress by many writers from very different fields of 'expertise'.

The investigation of these claims starts with an Historical Perspective in which the various concepts that have been offered over the last 25 Centuries are discussed. It shows that stress was preceded by 'conditions' like hysteria, vapours, nerves, neurasthenia, psychasthenia, nervous tension.  These 'conditions' often disappeared once people stopped talking about them.  Neurasthenia (literally 'weakness of the nerves'), for instance, enjoyed as much popularity as stress does today  from 1870 to 1920.  During its reign as a source of all evils, everything from hay fever to cancer was thought to be caused by neurasthenia. Today, of course, the term is unknown to most people.

The next chapter illustrates and explains why there have been difficulties in finding a definition of stress that can be acceptable to everyone.  It shows much disagreement amongst various researchers in defining stress. It also demonstrates that the way we use everyday language has helped make an incoherent concept like stress sound more believable.  Finally, the problems with the  concepts of 'distress' (bad stress) and 'eustress' (good stress) are also discussed.

When the various Stress Theories are explained and analysed, it becomes more obvious that there are serious problems with the idea of stress being the source of many of our problems. The confusion and contradictions  that plagued the original theory of stress by Hans Selye have never been resolved.  Many of the assumptions on which a notion of stress was based remain unproven 50 years later. Further attempts by other researchers to make the concept more coherent have only added to the confusion.

Things get worse in the next chapter when Other Theoretical Problems are exposed. First, the assumptions behind not only the notion of 'stress' but also behindone of its underlying principles, homeostasis, are challenged.  Then, the differences between physical and psychological 'stressors' are  investigated and this reveals serious difficulties with the usefulness of the term 'stressor', be it psychological or physical.  The final problem refers to the use of animals in studies of psychological 'stress'.  A quick point on this.  In studies involving people, researchers are not allowed, for ethical reasons, to expose people to situations that they would find unpleasant or uncomfortable (you may want to call these 'stressful', I don't).  This poses a serious problem for research on psychological 'stress'.  To overcome this problem, scientists have used animals instead of people.  The problem, however, is that this seems to assume that animals don't feel what we feel.  If this is the case, then such research (and much of the research on stress uses animals) is pretty much useless since the findings could not be relevant to people.  The alternative is not much better.  If animals feel what we feel, then we are cruel to them.  Either way, it is not a very good outcome.

The chapter on The Physiological Evidence of Stress tries, as its name indicates, to find scientific evidence for the existence of stress.  The ways researchers, in various fields of stress research, have tried to demonstrate that stress exists are discussed.  Not only is such an existence not proven but further attempts to demonstrate the effects of stress are shown to be flawed.

In the following chapter, the connection between Stress and Disease is investigated.  Once again, there is little proof that stress can make us sick, let alone kill us. Despite the many attempts to prove a connection, all that can be shown are correlations between unproven assumptions.  Just in case, you felt that correlations were sufficient to prove a connection between two events, let me remind you that a perfect correlation exists between breathing and dying. Does it mean that if we stop breathing, we will not die?

Finally, the last chapter, offering an Alternative Explanation, provides some evidence that the motivation behind the writing of this book is not just about destructing the concept of stress.  It is also about offering a useful and practical understanding of what people experience when they think they are 'stressed'. For it is certain that people DO feel something but whatever it is, it is not 'stress' since there is no evidence that such a 'thing' as 'stress' even exists.  The explanation that is offered proposes that we are not helpless victims of 'the disease of the century' and that we can in fact do something about the way we feel. How this can be done is argued carefully.  The solutions that are discussed are aimed at the causes of the problem rather than the symptoms.  They are not based on yet another theory but on real life applications.

If you want to read more, here are some quotes from the book.
Quotes from the book(To read them, click on each link below)
These quotes highlight the contradictions and the resulting confusion that exist amongst various people involved in the stress industry.

For Definitions of Stress

For Causes of Stress

For bibliography

The following link will show quotes by the author from the book

For Highlights
If you want to contact Serge Doublet

related links
Biography of Serge Doublet
E-mail Serge Doublet
Definitions of Stress
Causes of Stress
Bibliography on Stress
Highlights of The Stress Myth
Table of Contents The Stress Myth
The Stress Myth- Home page

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last modified April 17, 2008