Process of psychological adjustment to multiple sclerosis: comparing the roles of appraisals, acceptance, and cognitive fusion.
Ferenbach, Clive Thomas
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Background: Research in psychological adjustment to multiple sclerosis (MS) suggests that the way individuals appraise their condition can have an impact upon their psychological well-being and adjustment to their condition. Such research has influenced the development of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) interventions in this population. In recent years, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has gathered increasing interest in relation to chronic health conditions. ACT does not target the content of thought, but rather focuses on the contexts in which thought occurs (i.e. how individuals relate to their experiences). Aim and Primary Hypothesis: A cross sectional design was used to compare the extent to which cognitive appraisals and ACT constructs (‘acceptance’ and ‘cognitive fusion’), mediate the relationship between physical symptoms of MS and psychological adjustment outcomes. It was hypothesised that in comparison to cognitive appraisals, ACT constructs would serve as stronger mediators of the relationship between physical symptoms of MS and outcome measures. This study also piloted a newly adapted measure of MS related acceptance, the Multiple Sclerosis Acceptance Questionnaire (MSAQ). Method and Results: Participants (N = 133) completed self-report measures of: MS symptom severity, various cognitive constructs (cognitive appraisals and ACT constructs), symptoms of psychological distress, and satisfaction with life. Multiple mediation analysis was then used to compare competing mediational hypotheses. In comparison to all measures of cognitive appraisals, the ACT constructs tended to be stronger mediators of the relationship between symptoms and outcome measures (both psychological distress, and satisfaction with life). There was also some evidence for appraisals of personal control mediating the relationship between symptoms of MS and psychological distress. Conclusions: This research suggests that ACT constructs may be relevant to the process of psychological adjustment to MS, and that ACT based interventions may be worthy of investigation in this population. The newly adapted MSAQ also shows preliminary promise as a measure of MS related acceptance.