Self, Identity, Stress, and Mental Health

  • Peggy A. Thoits
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


This chapter explores the many ways in which people’s self-conceptions are involved in the stress process. The appraisal of stressors’ magnitude and thus their impacts on mental health may depend on whether or not they occur in a highly valued role-identity domain. Changes in self-esteem mediate the damaging impacts of stressors on individuals’ mental health, including the impacts of stigma-related rejection and discrimination. The stress-buffering effects of social support may be attributable to the self-esteem boosts people obtain from their supporters. Persons with high self-esteem are more likely to use problem-focused coping strategies, which are effective in reducing distress when circumstances are actually controllable. One major way of coping with adversity in a particular social role is to de-emphasize the importance of the role as an identity or as a source of self-evaluation, softening the distressing effects of role-related stressors. Self/identity factors are complexly involved in the stress process; understanding the complexities is key to developing powerful interventions.


self identity self-esteem stress coping social support mental health mental illness 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyIndiana University, BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA

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