Stress and coping responses to a natural disaster in people with schizophrenia

William P. Horan, Joseph Ventura, Jim Mintz, Alex Kopelowicz, Donna Wirshing, Jennifer Christian-Herman, David Foy, Robert P. Liberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Investigations of how individuals with schizophrenia differ from non-patients in their responses to stressful life events are subject to the criticism that any between-group differences might merely reflect differences in the types of stressful events that each group experiences. This report presents new analyses of data collected from schizophrenia patients (n = 96), bipolar disorder patients (n = 18), and healthy controls (n = 18) immediately after the Northridge Earthquake that struck Southern California in 1994, a natural experiment that confronted all groups with the same stressful event. Participants completed the Impact of Events Scale (IES; [Horowitz, M.J., Wilner, N., Alvarez, W., 1979. Impact of Events Scale. A measure of subjective stress. Psychosomatic Medicine 41, 209-218]) at 1 week and 5 weeks post-earthquake. At the 5-week follow-up, measures of coping, social support, and self-esteem were also completed. Both patient groups reported higher IES avoidance symptoms than controls immediately after the earthquake. The schizophrenia group also reported lower approach coping, self-esteem, and social support than controls, with the bipolar group reporting intermediate levels. Within the schizophrenia group, higher levels of avoidance coping predicted higher residual stress symptoms at follow-up. Results support the validity of prior reports of altered responses to stressful life events in schizophrenia and demonstrate the clinical relevance of individual differences in coping among affected individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-86
Number of pages10
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 30 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Coping
  • Disaster
  • Methodology
  • Schizophrenia
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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