The stress-vulnerability model how does stress impact on mental illness at the level of the brain and what are the consequences?

Psychiatr Danub. 2010 Jun;22(2):198-202.


Introduction: The stress -vulnerability model (Zubin et al. 1977) is an extremely useful model for identifying and treating relapses of mental illness. We accept that human persons carry genetic and other predisposition to mental illness. However, the question arises as to how stress impacts on a person in order to cause mental illness to develop. Furthermore there arises the issue as to what other effects such stress has on the human body beyond the human brain. Our aim was to research and integrate the current literature in order to establish how stress impacts on the brain at the cellular level, and to establish whether there are other consequences for the human body brought about by the impact of stress on the human brain.

Method: Literature Search, using pubmed.

Results: We have identified much literature on how stress affects biological mechanisms within the brain, and how it relates to biological vulnerabilities carried by different individuals.

Conclusion: We have identified communalities in how the interplay between stress and vulnerability occurs in different disease processes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Individuality
  • Mental Disorders / genetics
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / genetics
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / psychology
  • Mind-Body Relations, Metaphysical / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Hydrocortisone