The extraordinary persistence of psychiatric symptoms is an intrinsic aspect of the individual's psychic functioning. Symptoms are subjected to the adaptive mechanisms by which the ego maintains the integrative balance of the personality system; they serve the purpose of patterned tension reduction in conflict states. In themselves, symptoms are neither normal nor abnormal; they are significant only in relation to the individual's socialecological system. Influences exerted by social institutions and groups are inherently supportive and tend to stabilize human behavior; there is a reciprocal relationship between the way society is organized and the ways in which people find needed gratification. A basic principle of ego functioning is that equilibrium must be restored at whatever level is feasible. Distress occurs when the person's inherent attitude of unquestioned confidence in social belonging and in the virtue and protectiveness of the group is undermined.