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The End of Stress As We Know It Paperback – October 16, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based on the title, one might expect this to be a consumer health book offering cutting-edge stress-fighting techniques. Instead, brain researcher McEwen, who heads a neuroendocrinology lab at New York's Rockefeller University, presents a science text for laypeople who want to understand how brain biochemistry is altered during times of stress. He wrote the book to illustrate the paradox that "stress protects under acute conditions, but when activated chronically it can cause damage and accelerate disease." He illustrates this point by surveying some 50 years of lab research on how hormones and the immune system interact during temporary and chronic stress in people, animals and even tree shrews. In everyday terms, this syndrome is known as the "fight or flight response," but McEwen prefers the term "allostasis" for temporary stress and "allostatic" for chronic stress. Some of the studies are more intriguing than others (e.g., the chapter on voodoo death is infinitely more readable than discussions of immune function in distressed lab rats). A detailed appendix with charts of the endocrine and pituitary glands, as well as a bibliography with references to original journal studies make this a good pick for students entering the field of neuroscience, as well as scientists in other fields who are seeking to learn more. But laypeople who want to understand how stress affects the brain may be better off with Bill Moyers's less scientific but much more readable Healing and the Mind.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The stress response, paradoxically, can both ensure our immediate survival and threaten long-term physical and mental well-being. These titles describe the mechanisms involved in responding to stress, but they take different tacks. Bremner (psychiatry and radiology, Emory Univ. Sch. of Medicine) focuses on traumatic stress-its effects on individuals and their ability to work and to relate to others. His premise is that "stress-induced brain damage underlies and is responsible for the development of a spectrum of trauma-related psychiatric disorders." Bremner offers a persuasive argument for revising the current diagnostic schema of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (which currently classifies numerous trauma as distinct conditions) to provide for one single spectrum of disorders, including both acute and chronic posttraumatic stress disorder and related conditions. Like McEwen, Bremner details the biological mechanisms of the stress response, focusing especially on the changes that occur within the brain. The author also touches briefly on Freudian psychotherapy, the use of medical scanning devices, the nature vs. nurture argument, the validity of delayed recall, etc. Despite some occasional repetitive and awkward constructions in his text, Bremner offers an interesting and valuable perspective on the subject of traumatic stress. His book will particularly interest professionals. McEwen (head, Neuroendocrinology Laboratory, Rockefeller Univ.) uses the term allostasis to denote the stress response in which maximum energy is delivered to those parts of the body that will be critical for self-protection. Allostatic load, on the other hand, describes a system that turns against itself. McEwen discusses in detail the processes by which stress affects the cardiovascular and immune systems as well as the brain. The brain, according to McEwen, can be "the target as well as the initiator of the stress response." This system, however, need not inevitably threaten us. Lifestyle changes, including proper diet, exercise, rest, and the development of positive coping skills, can make an enormous difference in our ability to minimize the effects of chronic stress. McEwen's book is skillfully written and will appeal to a wide readership.
Laurie Bartolini, Illinois State Lib., Springfield
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Joseph Henry Press/The Dana Press; 1st edition (October 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0309091217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0309091213
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,525,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Pamela Brill on August 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
For any person who is under stress and who wants real data to support the theory that stress really does impair your performance, make you feel bad, and make you downright stupid, this book could be the influential force that sets you on a journey to turn your life around.
For as long as you are breathing, you are experiencing some level of stress. Knowing about the stress hormones constantly circulating through your body and bathing your brain, the naturally-occurring chemical balance that generates the sensation that stress really does make you stupid, can make the difference between a life lived on the edge or a life lived in that peak performance zone that we all desire.
As a psychologist,I have traversed diverse terrain. Whether I was working street corners with juvenile offenders, providing peak performance mental training for elite athletes, or consulting in manufacturing plants or Fortune 500 corner offices, stress has always been a constant force in my clients' lives. No matter what the setting--moguled ski slope, Courtroom, or Boardroom, slippery pool deck or muddy sports field--my hard-driving clients have sought strategies to learn to thrive even under the most stress-full conditions. Usually that entailed making strategic changes. To enlist their hearts and minds in order to get their legs moving in the right health-promoting directions, most of them responded to persuasive information. But few had the time to read through lengthy full-blown research reports (though, rest assured, some did).
Dr. McEwen's research on how we respond to stress and the debilitating effects of chronic excess stress is state-of-the-art and compelling. However, you have to really love neuropsych to plow through the original pieces (I have, as a self-proclaimed nerd, and I really did love them.
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This book is cutting edge. It catches up with what the scientific research has found for two decades -- that the origins of stress are not primarily external. It is largely psychological and the good news is that we can avoid the chronic and life threatening health problems caused by the long term activation of the stress mechanism by fostering our own mental health in simple ways. And the first step is to consider the possibility that stress is not the result of what people or events do to us, but is primarily due to our own thoughts, feelings and attitudes about people and events. This book is not based on one man's opinion, but rather on scientific findings. And the evidence is that we can shift our stress provoking attitudes fundamentally through strong social support, which simply means deepening of our connection with one another in meaningful ways, supporting one another in making a mindful shift out of stress. This book sees the stressed-out condition most of us experience as a wake-up call to evolve our consciousness by first taking responsibility for the stress in our lives and next having the courage to join with others in exploring ways of shifting it. It seems, as a culture, we need a 12-step program like AA but devoted to the crisis of stress.
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This is a very thorough and easy to understand book on the effects of chronic stress on every major body system, memory, mood, etc. It presents many of the same concepts as Dr. Sapolsky's excellent book, "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers." However, this resource is aimed more at laypeople.

Dr. Sapolosky's book is very dense for most people without a background in biology, however, he has an excellent sense of humor and goes more in-depth than Bruce McEwen. In short, if you didn't like taking science in school, you will probably get more out of the "The End of Stress As We Know It."

I also found that Bruce McEwen took more time and space to explain essential physiological concepts such as allostasis. This a key concept and Sapolosky seems to take the reader's understanding of this basic concept more for granted.

Overall, this book is well-organized and does a good job explaining the "fight or flight" response, the role of the endocrine system in stress and the impact of chronic stress. It does not, however, have much to say about how to overcome chronic stress that most people already don't know. For this, I would turn to other sources such as "Full Catastrophe Living."

Although this book does not address how to combat stress in great detail, I think it provides essential context for anyone trying to change their lifestyle. In fact, I think it should be required reading for anyone who works in a high stress environment.

If you want to read another good book on the societal and psychological factors that lead to being chronically stressed, then check out "American Mania" which was written by a UCLA psychiatrist and is complimentary to this book in some very good ways. If you read "American Mania" and this book, it will probably change your attitude toward the damaging effects of stress forever!
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This is an outstanding work on a most topical issue. Dr. McEwen, of Rockefeller University in New York City, has the gift of communication, articulating the work of neuroscience and behavior to all, particularly accessible to the public. This kind of work serves the public, an extremely important audience, very well. It led me to invite him to speak at the upcoming symposium of The Foundation for Human Potential (FHP), Mental Health and the Brain:Implications for Lifelong Lifelong Learning, Nov. 15-16, 2007, in Chicago., which will include presentations by many outstanding scientists and others with like communication abilities. I recommend it to all and have bought it for everyone I know!
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