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Factors related to psychological adjustment among people with MS

MS Research Australia and MS-ACT/NSW/VIC recently co-hosted the third of a series of MS Researcher Update webinars. This webinar was presented by Professor Marita McCabe, Director of the newly established Institute for Health and Ageing at the Australian Catholic University, in Melbourne. She spoke about her recent work exploring different types of coping styles and how people with MS adjust to their diagnosis, as well as the effects MS can have on relationships and sexual function.

There are many different ways that individuals cope with life’s challenges, and Professor McCabe’s research has identified that a person’s individual coping style can have a large impact on how successfully they adjust to their MS diagnosis. In particular, people who use emotion-focused coping styles, commonly involving a degree of wishful thinking and often resulting in high levels of distress, may have more difficulty adjusting to MS than people who use problem-focused coping, which uses active strategies in looking for solutions.

Professor McCabe’s research has shown that many people with MS used emotion-focused coping more often than problem-focused coping, resulting in poorer adjustment. Many other factors were related to a person’s adjustment to MS, in particular their level of resilience, their social support networks, and how actively they engaged in daily activities to the best of their ability.

Professor McCabe has also undertaken a study of relationship satisfaction and sexual functioning, and found higher levels of sexual dysfunction among both men and women with MS compared to the general population. This can have a flow-on effect on relationships and general well-being. However, many of these difficulties can be effectively treated or managed.

In November 2012, Professor McCabe and colleagues at Deakin University partnered with MS Research Australia to complete a study into the needs of Australians living with MS. We recently reported on the publication of some of the findings from this Needs Analysis in the international peer-reviewed medical literature via the Journal of Psychosomatic Research. The paper focuses on the psychological, education and peer support needs of people living with MS.

In a subsequent study published last month in the journal NeuroRehabilitation, Professor McCabe reports on additional Needs Analysis data showing that many people with MS continue to have significant unmet needs for successful community functioning. Key areas of need included the availability of more personalised information about eligibility for welfare and government services, as well as avenues for obtaining financial assistance. The full report a ‘Needs Analysis of Australians with MS’ can be found on the MS Research Australia website here.

The Researcher Update webinars are a joint initiative with MS-ACT/NSW/VIC  and MS Research Australia, aiming to give the MS community the opportunity to hear about the latest social and applied research outcomes directly from the investigators.

The webinar recording can be viewed here.

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Factors related to psychological adjustment among people with MS