Diathesis-Stress Hypothesis

The Diathesis-Stress Hypothesis states that mental illnesses, psychological and/or personality disorders that are diagnosed in adulthood are caused by an genetic predisposition that can be triggered by stressful factors or events that occur earlier in life. These triggering events may be poverty, exposure to violence, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, death, divorce, etc. Essentially, this hypothesis states that mental and emotional problems are frequently rooted in reactions to past stresses and negative experiences.

For example when a person who had a difficult or traumatic childhood develops symptoms of mental illness as a teenager or adult It is believed that these symptoms may not have developed, or at least been less severe, if the person had had a happier or more benign childhood.

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