What is the diathesis-stress model?

Diathesis-Stress Model

The diathesis-stress model is a psychological theory which aims to explain why an individual becomes vulnerable to stress and other psychological disorder.

According to this model, a psychological disorder is the result of several contributing factors. This may include genetic, psychological, biological, and situational factors.

However, these factors may differ from one person to another. This means that a person may be vulnerable to one of these factors and not the other way around.

The contributing factors may boost the individual’s response to stress. For instance, if a person is vulnerable to stress due to the trait s/he inherited from his/her parents, then s/he will easily get stressed when exposed to a stressful situation.

Thus, the diathesis-stress model sought to explain how biological factors interact with daily life experience that will result in the development of a psychological disorder.

The model assumes that if the combination of predisposition and stress reach the threshold, a psychological disorder may develop.

The concept of diathesis is not new. In fact, it was already used in the 1800s in medical practice. It was only used in mental health practice in the 1960s in an attempt to explain psychopathology, especially schizophrenia.

Since then, the diathesis-stress model is heavily used in the different fields of psychology in explaining psychological disorders. It is mainly used for understanding the interaction between environment and genetic factors. The model provides an explanation on how an individual develops psychopathology.

The diathesis-stress model also helps to explain why not all people develop psychological disorders even when exposed to the same stressful situation.

In recent years, experts noticed that not all children from a depressive family would develop the same depressive symptoms.

The reasons behind are the protective factors. For instance, a person with high level of self-esteem may not develop depression even exposed to stressors. In contrast, people with poor self-esteem may be more vulnerable to depression.

In other words, protective factors may have a significant role in mediating the effect of stressors.

The term diathesis is similar to the word vulnerability. The lesser the vulnerability the lower the possibility that a person develops a psychological disorder.

The vulnerability is believed to be inherent to a person. This inner tendency is unchangeable. Meaning, if you are vulnerable to stressors, you remain that way throughout your lifespan.

Whether you are vulnerable or not is hard to tell. This factor is latent. Meaning, it is hard to determine until one develops stress or other psychological issues.

As mentioned, some of the powerful stressors may include genetic, personality, cognitive, and psychological factors.

In addition, some studies found that socioeconomic status is one of the reasons why some people get stressed.

I’m a licensed psychometrician, author, and blogger. I’m currently working as a University instructor teaching psychology. I love writing and doing psychological research.

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