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More MS news articles for April 2004

Coping with MS: active better than passive

April 1, 2004
Boston Cure Project

A recent study from Australia looked at the different approaches people with MS take to cope with their illness. Researchers asked people with MS (as well as people from the general population for comparison) to fill out a questionnaire asking about coping strategies and mood states. The responses indicated that men and women with MS who engaged in "wishful thinking" or other passive strategies tended to report more tension, depression, confusion, and fatigue. On the other hand, more active strategies were associated with lower levels of depression and tension. Choice of strategies differed between men and women -- women who were better-adjusted tended to seek social support (e.g., talking about their illness with others), whereas men were more likely to adopt problem-solving strategies (e.g., analyzing the problem to understand it better).

The cause-effect relationship is not entirely clear -- it seems reasonable to believe that how someone chooses to cope with a problem could affect his/her mental and emotional state, but perhaps choice of coping mechanisms in turn can be influenced by various factors. In fact, the authors point out that an important next step would be to study coping strategies in conjunction with exacerbations, because people experiencing an exacerbation may turn to other approaches than those used during remission. Still, people with MS who are feeling depressed, tense, confused or fatigued might want to look at how they're choosing to cope with their illness and consider learning about more active approaches as appropriate.

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