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June 6, 1980


JAMA. 1980;243(21):2157. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300470019014

In Reply.—  Dr Scherlis seeks to redefine stress in a way that differentiates it from strain. There may be good reasons behind such a redefinition, but I doubt that it will be possible, in the popular or professional mind, to rewrite the language and to detach stress from any suggestion of negative stimulus. All the general dictionaries connect stress to disturbance. Stedman's Medical Dictionary describes stress as "the reactions of the animal body to forces of a deleterious nature [such as] infections and various abnormal states that tend to disturb its normal physiologic equilibrium (homeostasis)." The Encyclopedia Britannica defines stress as "any strain or interference that disturbs the functioning of an organism." Hans Selye, in his Stress of Life,1 sees it as "the rate of wear and tear in the body."I of course respect the right of any person or any committee to seek acceptance of a new