Year of Publication

2015

Season of Publication

Summer

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Psychology (MAGP)

Department

Psychology

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Lori Lange

Second Advisor

Dr. Steven Ames

Department Chair

Dr. Lori Lange

College Dean

Dr. Barbara Hetrick

Abstract

Illness representations play an important role in the way people with chronic illness manage symptoms and view their overall health. Those suffering from functional somatic syndromes as well as conventional diagnoses seek information and meaning about their health threats in order to make appraisals concerning health outcomes. The primary interest of this study was to determine whether illness representations predict coping strategies which in turn influence general health outcomes. Data was collected from a series of four online surveys that measured an individual’s illness representations (IPQ-R), coping responses (Brief COPE), and health outcomes (RAND-36). The sample included 204 participants (169 females and 30 males) all of whom experienced chronic illness symptoms and were classified as having a functional somatic syndrome (FSS) or conventional diagnosis (CD). As hypothesized, illness perceptions predicted avoidant coping strategies as well as general health. Specifically, illness beliefs of greater consequences and lower coherence were associated with greater reported use of self-blame, behavioral disengagement, and denial. Furthermore, these avoidant coping strategies were associated with poorer health. Self-blame emerged as a coping strategy most associated with illness representations and general health. Although a meditational model was proposed, self-blame did not mediate the relationship between illness consequence and general health.These findings suggest that viewing an illness as having more consequences is associated with more avoidant coping and has a negative impact on the overall general health in those suffering with chronic illness.

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