Life Events and Psychiatric Disorders

Topics: Mental disorder, Psychiatry, Schizophrenia Pages: 18 (6120 words) Published: February 22, 2013
* RITA CHATTERJEE, M.A., M. Phil (Medical and Social Psychology Trainee); MANU ARORA, M.D., D.P.M., Senior Resident; Central Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi, India. *

* Citation: Chatterjee, R. & Arora, M. (2005) Life events and psychiatric disorders. Mental Health Reviews, Accessed from <> on CONCEPTS AND DEFINITIONS

Life Events
Researchers have long been interested in understanding how individuals and environments affect each other, primarily so as to describe and explain age – related behaviour and individual differences. One focus has been to study life events. A life event is indicative of or requires a significant change in the ongoing life patterns of the individual. According to Settersten and Mayer (1997), "A life event is a significant occurrence involving a relatively abrupt change that may produce serious and long lasting effects". It refers to the happening itself and not to the transitions that will occur because of the happenings. Life events can occur in a variety of domains (family, health, and work) and may be age graded (School, marriage and retirement), history graded (war and depression), or non-normative (illness and divorce). Most of the adolescent and adult literature reflects a sociological tradition of assessing the impact of life events as transitions between major roles, age grades, status gains and losses, and so forth. Turning Points

A turning point is a special life event that produces a lasting shift in the life course trajectory. It must lead to more than a temporary detour. As significant as they are to individual’s lives, turning points usually become obvious only as time passes (Wheaton and Gotlib, 1997). Three types of life events can serve as turning points (Rutter, 1996): * Life events that either close or open opportunities.

* Life events that make a lasting change on the person's environment. * Life events that change a person's self-concept, beliefs and expectations. However, it must be remembered that the same type of life events may be a turning point for one individual, family, or other collectivity, but not for another. Also, less dramatic transitions may become turning points depending upon the individual's assessment of its importance.

Life Event Stress
The Encyclopedia of stress defines stress as "real or an interpreted threat to physiological or psychological integrity of an individual that results in physiological and/or behavioural response." Stress involves a process in which environmental demands tax or exceed the adaptive capacity of an organism resulting in psychological and biological changes that may place persons at risk for disease. Three broad traditions of assessing the role of stress in disease risk may be distinguished: * The environmental tradition focuses on assessment of environmental events or experiences that are normatively (objectively) associated with substantial adaptive demands. * The psychological tradition focuses on individuals' subjective evaluations of their abilities to cope with the demands posed by specific events or experiences. * The biological tradition focuses on activation of specific physiological systems that have been repeatedly shown to be modulated by both psychologically and physically demanding conditions. Life event stresses thus essentially follow the environmental tradition, and are concerned with situational encounters and the meaning a person may attach to such events. Stressful life events are causally implicated in a variety of undesirable effects on our performance and health (Dohrenwend and Dohrenwend, 1997). Such observation is based on two assumptions. Firstly, life changes require adaptation on the part of the individual and are stressful. Secondly, persons experiencing marked life changes in the recent past are susceptible to physical and psychiatric problems. All life...
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