Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Psychology (MAGP)



First Advisor

Dr. Lori Lange


While coping varies with individuals and is a product of complex, interrelated factors, the primary interest of this study was determining how coping behaviors manifest according to these chronic illness types: those of known pathology (e.g., asthma, osteoarthritis, lupus) and those that lack a clear, structural pathology (i.e., functional somatic syndromes and medically unexplained symptoms). Data for this study were gathered from a series of four comprehensive online surveys, which included measures of coping (Brief COPE), pain and health outcomes (SF-36), negative affect (I-PANAS-SF) and depression (PHQ- 8). The analyzed sample was comprised of 148 participants (119 Female, 28 Male and 1 Not Answered) with a mean age of 43.34 (SD = 13.69), all of whom experienced at least three months of chronic physical symptoms. Based on diagnosis, the participants were grouped into that of conventional disease (CD), functional somatic syndromes (FSS) or medically unexplained symptoms (MUS). Even while controlling for significant covariates (e.g., depression, negative affect, pain perception), multivariate analyses revealed no significant differences in coping strategies by illness group, Wilks’s Lambda = .96, F(4, 222) = 1.05, p = .38.

The results suggest that the use of coping strategies does not differ by illness type, but can be predicted by other, health-related factors, notably stress, β = -.21, t(120) = -2.09, p = .04; symptoms, β = .32, t(120) = 2.82, p = .01; personal control, β = .19, t(120) = 2.16, p = .03, and negative affect, β = .34, t(121) = 2.81, p = .01. It appears that patient experience with chronic illness can be more informative regarding appropriate treatments and therapeutic interventions than just illness type itself.

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Psychology Commons