Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner


  • Michael WitthöftEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_16


The terms “etiology” and “pathogenesis” are closely related to the questions of why and how a certain disease or disorder develops. Models of etiology and pathogenesis therefore try to account for the processes that initiate (etiology) and maintain (pathogenesis) a certain disorder or disease.


Etiology (consisting of two Greek terms for “origin” and “study of”) refers to the study of the causes of a mental or physical disease. As parts of the etiology of a respective disease, only causes that directly initiate the disease process (and therefore necessarily temporarily have to precede the onset of the disease) are considered as etiological factors. Etiological factors can thus be considered as necessary conditions for the development of a disease. The etiology of a certain condition is mostly defined not only by one but rather by the interplay of many different conditions (biological, environmental, etc.). As an example, the etiologyof the common cold is based on...

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References and Readings

  1. Eccles, R., & Weber, O. (2009). Common cold. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhäuser Verlag.Google Scholar
  2. Ehlert, U., Gaab, J., & Heinrichs, M. (2001). Psychoneuroendocrinological contributions to the etiology of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and stress related bodily disorders: The role of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. Biological Psychology, 57, 141–152.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychologisches Institut Abteilung Klinische Psychologie und PsychotherapieJohannes Gutenberg Universität MainzMainzGermany