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Title: Psychological functioning after a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis : (i) the relationship with knowledge of disease and cognitive coping strategies, (ii) the knowledge of disease in clinical staff and the general public
Author: Anderson, S. I.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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Background: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease typified by uncertainty. The process of diagnosis is frequently protracted and the prediction of prognosis can be equally problematic. It is possible that events leading up to diagnosis, the way in which diagnosis is imparted and the support and information given in the early days post-diagnosis may be important factors in shaping beliefs about the illness and the individuals ability to cope with it in the long term. The attitude adopted by clinical staff towards the patient may also be an important factor in his or her adaptation in the early stages of the illness. This study was set up to investigate (1) psychological functioning and cognitive coping strategies of patients in the first few months after diagnosis and (2) the knowledge and beliefs of clinical staff and the general public about the disease. Method: A cross sectional survey methodology was used to investigate psychological functioning and cognitive coping strategies in a group of fifty individuals with MS within a year of the diagnosis. The relationship between psychological distress and cognitive coping strategies was investigated, and both these factors were looked at in relation to the patient’s illness history the circumstances of diagnosis and the patient’s knowledge about the disease. The knowledge and beliefs of clinical staff and members of the general public regarding the disease was also investigated using a questionnaire devised for the purposes of the study. Results: Over a third of patients in this group were suffering significant levels of anxiety and almost one quarter significant levels of depression. A past history of psychological difficulties and a lack of social support were more predictive of psychological functioning than a range of illness related factors. While the knowledge of MS held by clinical staff was generally good, it was deficient in certain important areas. In particular staff tended to have an unduly pessimistic view of MS and this may affect their attitude towards the patients in their care. Public knowledge of MS was poor. Conclusions: Staff working with recently diagnosed MS patients should be aware of the high levels of psychological distress, and in particular anxiety, found in this patient group. There is a need for psychological screening and for the implementation and evaluation of therapeutic interventions targeting these difficulties. The study also served to highlight the need for both staff education and public health education in the light of the extremely negative view of the disease held by many.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available