The Crisis of Physical Illness

An Overview and Conceptual Approach
  • Rudolf H. Moos
  • Jeanne A. Schaefer


An acute health crisis is often a key turning point in an individual’s life. The vivid confrontation with a severe physical illness or injury, prolonged treatment and uncertainty, and intense personal strains can have a profound and lasting impact. Most patients cope reasonably well with such a crisis and are able to recover and resume their prior level of functioning. Some individuals, however, are utterly demoralized and suffer serious psychological consequences, whereas others emerge with a more mature outlook and a richer appreciation of life. What factors affect the ultimate psychosocial outcome of a health crisis? Why do some patients continue to struggle under the most harrowing circumstances? What are the major adaptive tasks seriously ill patients encounter? What types of coping skills do they use to promote recovery? Are there common phases or stages through which individuals progress as they negotiate a health crisis? What stressors are encountered by health care professionals and how can they nourish the psychological healing process among patients and their families? We deal with these issues here by considering physical illness as a life crisis and by describing how patients and staff cope with the stress of illness and of treatment.


Heart Attack Behavioral Medicine Coping Skill Physical Illness Coping Resource 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rudolf H. Moos
    • 1
  • Jeanne A. Schaefer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University and Veterans Administration Medical CenterPalo AltoUSA

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