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More MS news articles for March 2003

The role of helplessness as mediator between neurological disability, emotional instability, experienced fatigue and depression in patients with multiple sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis, 1 February 2003, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 89-94(6)
van der Werf S.[1]; Evers A.[1]; Jongen P.[2]; Bleijenberg G.[1]
[1] Department of Medical Psychology, University Medical Centre Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands [2] Multiple Sclerosis Centre Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

The aim of this study was to test, in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), whether the concept of helplessness might improve the understanding of the relationship between disease severity (neurological impairment) and personality characteristics (emotional instability) on one hand, and depressive mood and fatigue severity on the other hand.

Data pertain to 89 patients with a definite diagnosis of MS (Expanded Disability Status Scale [EDSS] ratings: 18).

Helplessness, fatigue severity, depressive mood and emotional instability were rated with validated questionnaires.

Model testing revealed that more neurological impairment and more emotional instability were associated with more helplessness, while higher levels of helplessness were associated with more fatigue and depressive mood.

The initially observed direct relationship between EDSS and fatigue disappeared.

Emotional instability also had a direct significant relationship with depressive mood, and depressive mood had only a small relationship with fatigue severity.

The results indicated that helplessness affected both depressive mood and fatigue severity and that fatigue was not merely a symptom of depressive mood.

The correlation between neurological impairment and fatigue severity was largely explained by the mediating effect of helplessness.

These findings suggest that MS patients troubled by disabling fatigue might benefit from a psychological intervention targeting unfavourable illness cognitions.