Models of adjustment to chronic illness: using the example of rheumatoid arthritis

Clin Psychol Rev. 2004 Aug;24(4):461-88. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2004.03.001.


There are a number of theoretical frameworks that attempt to explain how individuals may adjust to threats to health and serious physical illness. The three major paradigms that attempt to organize key components of health and adaptation to illness include the following: the biomedical model which emphasizes disease; psychological models of adaptation to illness; and biopsychosocial models with the latter two emphasizing health, functioning, and well-being. Each of these three major paradigms, including biomedical, psychosocial, and biopsychosocial frameworks, is discussed and critiqued in turn, and contributions and theoretical issues in terms of adjustment to chronic illness, particularly rheumatoid arthritis (RA), are highlighted. Furthermore, a biopsychosocial framework for conceptualizing adjustment to physical illness is proposed that incorporates elements from key existing biomedical and psychosocial models of adaptation to chronic physical health issues.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Social Adjustment*