The diathesis-stress model states that mental disorders arise from a combination of stressful life circumstances and genetic predisposition. The diathesis-stress model is based on the theory that mental and physical disorders develop in response to a genetic predisposition for that illness.
Understanding the diathesis-stress model
The diathesis-stress model touches on the subject of nature vs. nurture in psychology.
The subject, which was debated in ancient Rome and Greece, seeks to understand whether innate biological factors (nature) or social and situational factors (nurture) are the predominant cause of a disorder.
Rather than advocating one factor over another, however, the diathesis-stress model believes that a combination of the two is a more likely explanation.
To that end, the model posits that individuals with more predisposition to a disorder may require a less stressful event for it to manifest.
The two components of the diathesis-stress model
Let’s take a more detailed look at the two components of diathesis and stress to better understand how they may interact to precipitate illness:
Diathesis is an individual’s predisposition (or vulnerability) to a mental or physical disorder. It can be caused by:
- Cognitive factors.
- Biology or genetics.
- Environmental stressors or traumatic experiences in childhood, and
- Situational factors, such as cohabiting with a parent who has a mental illness.
While a child that lives with a mentally ill parent can eventually move out of home as an adult, most of these factors tend to remain with a person for their entire life and their negative effects are difficult to address completely.
Since diathesis is also a defacto measure of vulnerability, those who rate on the lower end of the scale will require a more stressful event to precipitate a disorder and vice versa.
Stress may be caused by any number of events such as:
- Financial problems.
- Serious or chronic health issues.
- An upcoming test or exam.
- The death of a family member or friend, and
- The COVID-19 pandemic.
Irrespective of whether the stressor is short-term or chronic, it’s worth noting that diathesis can cause stress and the reverse is also true.
Protective factors in the diathesis-stress model
Protective factors explain why someone who experiences a lot of stress and is predisposed to illness can live their lives relatively unaffected.
- Professional counseling or therapy.
- High emotional intelligence (EQ).
- Being a member of a support group.
- Stress management techniques, and
- Understanding of healthy coping mechanisms.
- The diathesis-stress model states that mental disorders arise from a combination of stressful life circumstances and genetic predisposition.
- The diathesis-stress model is based on the interactions of diathesis (factors that predispose an individual to illness) and events that precipitate or induce the illness itself. Diathesis may cause stress and vice versa.
- Protective factors explain why someone who experiences stress and is predisposed to illness can live their lives relatively unaffected. Protective factors may take the form of self-awareness, professional help, support groups, and high emotional intelligence.
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