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What is "Resilience"

The concept of resilience has undergone a major change in meaning since the emergence of resilience research in the 1970s. Today, we understand psychological resilience not as a stable character trait that gives its bearer resistance to traumatisation and crises, but as the result ("outcome") of good mental health despite stress, i.e. as the maintenance or rapid recovery of mental health during or after adverse life situations such as stress or trauma.

On the one hand, various factors ("resilience factors") such as an optimistic mindset, a high level of self-confidence or a supportive social environment seem to determine the success of crisis management; on the other hand, individuals often permanently change their way of dealing with adversity in the course of successful crisis management. Sustained good mental health despite stress (resilience in today's sense) is therefore presumably in many cases the result of adaptation processes in which the individual optimises methods and strategies of coping in interaction with his or her environment. Resilience-promoting change processes, including changes in brain function, could also be shown in particular in animal models of resilience.

Resilience mechanisms are understood to be those successful methods or strategies that an individual uses in confronting difficult life situations for the purpose of overcoming crises. It is assumed that resilience factors make the activation of corresponding resilience mechanisms more likely. For example, it is assumed that an optimistic thinking style or a high expectation of self-efficacy in crisis situations lead to relatively positive situation assessments that avoid overreactions and leave room for a flexible approach and the necessary rebuilding of resources. 

The main goal of resilience research is to identify resilience factors and resilience mechanisms and to decipher the adaptation processes that take place in order to develop new methods for the prevention of stress-associated mental illnesses in individuals who are or will be in stressful life circumstances. It can be assumed that people whose resilience factors are low or who have additional risk factors should benefit most from resilience-promoting interventions. This justifies the importance of research approaches for individual prediction of mental health trajectories, which should indicate favourable intervention times and appropriate intervention methods based on early warning signals and individual factor profiles.