IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The experience of chronic illness and post-traumatic stress disorder: the consequences of cumulative adversity


  • Alonzo, Angelo A.


In this paper the experiences of the chronically ill are examined to explore the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), accumulated burden of adversity and trauma spectrum disorder on subsequent illness and coping behaviors. Individuals experiencing chronic diseases have been studied with regard to depression, anxiety and a variety of coping maladaptions, but negligible attention has been given to the PTSD potential of chronic disease over the life course. Yet, growing evidence suggests that the traumatogenic potential of chronic diseases, some sudden and unexpected onsets, and the traumatogenic changes in life circumstance, may produce maladaptive illness coping over the life course. More importantly, attention needs to focus on the additive effect of co-morbid life events and the traumatic potential of invasive medical therapies. Consideration of PTSD and a continuum of cumulative adversity provide a more complex and fully drawn understanding of the circumstances surrounding chronic illness coping and reasons for maladaptive coping following invasive therapies and changes in the disease trajectory. The pathophysiology that produces a chronic diseases does not begin at symptom onset, and the psychosocial strategies to cope with a chronic illness, whether efficacious or maladaptive, also do not begin at symptom onset, but develops over the life course.

Suggested Citation

  • Alonzo, Angelo A., 2000. "The experience of chronic illness and post-traumatic stress disorder: the consequences of cumulative adversity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(10), pages 1475-1484, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:50:y:2000:i:10:p:1475-1484

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Benyamini, Yael & Solomon, Zahava, 2005. "Combat stress reactions, posttraumatic stress disorder, cumulative life stress, and physical health among Israeli veterans twenty years after exposure to combat," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(6), pages 1267-1277, September.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:50:y:2000:i:10:p:1475-1484. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.