Diathesis-Stress Model: Uses & How It Works

Last Update on November 28, 2022 : Published on November 28, 2022
Diathesis-Stress Model

The Diathesis-stress model can be traced back to the early nineteen hundreds but the documented origin can be seen in the year 1950. Paul Meehl (1960) used the application of the diathesis-stress model to explain the origins of schizophrenia.

Did you know that the diathesis-stress model is one of the most commonly used and accepted theories that explain the investigation or attribution of the cause or reason for mental disorders? In fact, since the mid-1900s the diathesis-stress model has been used to understand mental health conditions like depression.

In simple words, an individual with a predisposition to depression or related mental health conditions is most likely to develop the condition when exposed to stress. Today we are going to talk about the diathesis-stress model because it can make us understand our mental health conditions better.

Let’s get started…

Diathesis-stress Model: Explained


Diathesis-stress model states that mental disorders and medical conditions occur because of an inherent predisposition and an individual’s experience of stress. Diathesis-stress model, also known as the vulnerability-stress model explains how an individual’s vulnerabilities and stressors combined can lead to developing mental health conditions.

Diathesis refers to the vulnerability or predisposition an individual possesses towards a mental health condition. These dispositions can be because of various reasons including genetic factors, stress experienced in life, childhood traumatic experiences, and some other biological susceptibilities.

Stress on the other hand is referred to the response an individual generates when they are put in a challenging situation. Stress is the environmental factor that can influence or trigger the onset of a mental health condition.

The Diathesis-stress model states that when your vulnerability (diathesis) is combined with stress, you’re more likely to develop a mental health condition. For example, if someone in your family has an anxiety disorder, if you are not able to manage stress in your life you’re most likely to develop an anxiety disorder (the vulnerability (diathesis) came through inheritance)

How Does The Diathesis Stress Model Work?

Every individual has some vulnerabilities carried down through genes, genetic abnormalities, or the complex interaction of various genes. Having said that, it doesn’t necessarily mean that having a predisposition will lead to mental health conditions.

Diathesis-stress model works in a way that tells us whether an individual is vulnerable to developing mental health conditions or not. This model rightly explains why some people are more susceptible to developing a mental disorder.

The diathesis-stress model states that these predispositions make you vulnerable to mental health conditions. However, even if you have these vulnerabilities and you have learned good stress management strategies, you can avoid developing mental health conditions.

The diathesis-stress model helps us understand our conditions better as it explains the onset of different mental health conditions. With the information retrieved using the diathesis-stress model, you can better moderate the stress in your life.

Diathesis Stress Model: Uses


There are various uses of the diathesis-stress model. The diathesis-stress model is already being used to improve research, help in better diagnosis, and create effective treatment of mental disorders.

Let’s have a look at some other uses of the diathesis-stress model;

Understanding the causes of mental illness

There are many mental health models but most of them focus primarily on nature or nurture. The diathesis-stress model is one of the only models that help understand mental health conditions resulting from biological and environmental influences.

Reducing the stress that contributes to mental disorders

According to the diathesis-stress model, stress plays a vital role in developing a mental health condition. Therefore they use a lot of stress reduction strategies to protect themselves from developing a mental disorder.

Exploring the interactions of biological and environmental influences

The diathesis-stress model helps in guiding research to identify the causes of mental illness. This can further help in the development of more effective treatments for severe mental illnesses.

Understanding the impact of genetics and the environment

This diathesis-stress model has made it so simple for us to understand why some people develop mental health conditions even after leading a good, healthy life. The amount of stress that we have to deal with and the way we choose to react to it can influence our susceptibility to developing a mental illness.

That’s All Folks!

I hope you found this blog about the diathesis-stress model interesting, helpful, and thought-provoking. Do share this blog with your friends and family so that we all understand the role genetics and stress play when it comes to our mental health.

Thanks for reading.

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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