Positive psychological states and coping with severe stress

Soc Sci Med. 1997 Oct;45(8):1207-21. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(97)00040-3.


Providing care to a spouse or partner who is dying and then losing that person are among the most stressful of human experiences. A longitudinal study of the caregiving partners of men with AIDS showed that in addition to intense negative psychological states, these men also experienced positive psychological state states throughout caregiving and bereavement. The co-occurrence of positive and negative psychological states in the midst of enduring and profoundly stressful circumstances has important implications for our understanding of the coping process. Coping theory had traditionally focused on the management of distress. This article describes coping processes that are associated with positive psychological states in the context of intense distress and discusses the theoretical implications of positive psychological states in the coping process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / therapy
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Bereavement
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Death
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Stress, Psychological*