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A Journal on Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychopharmacology

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Social Psychiatry
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Minerva Psichiatrica 2002 June;43(2):117-26

language: Italian

Life events and psychiatric disorders

Maina G., Picco C., Bergesio C., Pessina E., Bogetto F


The role of life events in the onset of psychiatric disorders has been widely investigated. The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), recognizes specific disorders caused by life events: acute stress disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, brief psychotic disorder with marked stressor and adjustment disorder. For all these aforementioned disorders, DSM-IV indicates the characteristic elements of the event: quality (negative, neutral, positive), intensity (slight, average, extreme gravity), length of time, temporal relationship with the onset of disorder. Relationship between life events and the onset of other psychiatric disorders, may be supposed when many clinical elements suggesting causal correlation are satisfied. Although for each disorder many studies have investigated the relationship with life events, the validity of data has been restricted because of several methodological limits, such as absence of well-defined event criteria, absence of standardized instruments for assessment of life events and absence of a control group. For some disorders, first of all major depressive disorder, life events have been proved to play a considerable role. Considering life events, two particular conditions must be separately mentioned: bereavement and postpartum. Several proposals regarding future research in this area can be made, including greater use of prospective research design, more attention in specific events and investigation about protective role of social support.

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