Diathesis-Stress Model & Depression

Kara Pengelly

Diathesis-Stress Model

The diathesis-stress model suggests that "a biological predisposition called a diathesis must combine with a stressful circumstance before the predisposition to a mental disorder is manifested" (Morris & Maisto, 2013, p. 394).

This model can be used to assess depression, because while there is certainly biological components to depression, the condition can emerge or intensify due to stressful environmental factors.

Characteristics of Depression

Depression is a mood disorder, and is characterized by:

· Overwhelming feelings of sadness

· Lack of interest in activities

· Excessive guilt

· Feelings of worthlessness (Morris & Maisto, 2013, p. 397)

While these thoughts and feelings occur occasionally in individuals without depression, the difference in people who have been diagnosed is the pervasiveness of these thoughts and feelings.

Biological, Social, and Psychological Causes of Depression

· Death

· Losses such as job layoffs

· Relationship difficulties including divorce

· Normal milestones such as puberty, marriage, or retirement

· Alcoholism or drug abuse

· Neurochemical and hormonal imbalances

· Infections and illness (Nemade, Reiss, & Dombeck, 2014).

Medicinal Treatments for Depression

While a variety of medicinal options are available for treating depression, most fall into the following categories:

1. Tricylic Antidepressants (TCAs) – work by increasing the amount of neurotransmitters (norepinepherine and serotonin), and include medicines such as: Anafranil, Elavil, Norpramin, Pertofrane, Tofranil, Vivactil, and Zonalon

2. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) – also work by increasing the amount of norepinepherine and serotonin in the brain, but come with strict dietary restrictions. This category includes medication sucha s Emsam, Eldepryl, Marplan, Zelapar

3. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – work by increasing serotonin levels and include medications such as: Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft

4. Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) – works by increasing norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain and includes medications such as: Cymbalta, Effexor, and Pristiq (WebMD, LLC, 2014)

Current Understandings of Major Depression

This article uses the Diathesis-Stres Model to explain the onset and causes of depression.


Morris, C. and Maisto, A. (2013). Understanding Psychology. 10th ed. Boston: Pearson

Nemade, R., Reiss, N., Dombeck, M. (2014). Current Understandings of Major Depression - Diathesis-Stress Model. PVMHMR.org. Retrieved on September 13, 2014 from http://www.pvmhmr.org/5-depression/article/12998-current-understandings-of-major-depression-diathesis-stress-model

WebMD, LLC (2014). Drug Options for the Treatment of Depression. WebMD.com. Retrieved on September 13, 2014 from http://www.webmd.com/depression/symptoms-depressed-anxiety-12/antidepressants