This study provides an analysis of how disease personification affects outcomes over time in patients with multiple sclerosis.
Many patients with chronic illness ascribe human characteristics to their conditions. According to illness personification theory, this ascription can impact their adaptation and the way that they relate to their illness, with various possible methods ranging from positive or benevolent personification to malevolent personification. This change in how a person relates to their illness can affect how they see themselves within the narrative of their illness and how they choose to interact with it. A recent study published in the Journal for Psychosomatic Research aimed to examine the role of personification in the adaptation of patients with multiple sclerosis. The two-wave study included 90 participants at T1 (2019) and 60 at T2 (2020).
The researchers used the Ben-Gurion University Illness Personification Scale (BGU-IPS) alongside a number of other adaptation-related variables pertaining to salutogenic, psychological, psychopathological, and health aspects. The intent was to examine the association between results of the BGU-IPS and adaptation variables. Negative personification was found to be associated with heightened psychological and psychopathological aspects, as well as low levels of health-related adaptation and salutogenic adaptation. On the other hand, positive personification was associated with salutogenic adaptation.
Negative personification at T1 predicted anxiety, physical problems, pain frequency, and fatigue frequency at T2, while positive personification at T1 predicted intolerance of uncertainty at T2. The authors note that negative personification is shown by their data to be a risk factor for adaptation in patients with MS. They also note that their findings are not conclusive, and that additional data regarding the impacts of positive personification is needed to fully understand how this complex process works in patients with MS.
Aloni, R., Shahar, G., Ben-Ari, A., Margalit, D., & Achiron, A. (2023). Negative and positive personification of multiple sclerosis: Role in psychological adaptation. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 164, 111078. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2022.111078