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Perceptions of psychosis, coping, appraisals, and psychological distress in the relatives of patients with schizophrenia: an exploration using self-regulation theory

Dónal G Fortune, Jo V Smith, Kay Garvey
British Journal of Clinical Psychology 2005, 44 (Pt 3): 319-31
16238880

OBJECTIVE: Following Leventhal's self-regulation model, the purpose of the present study was to provide an examination of the relationship between psychosis perceptions, coping strategies, appraisals, and distress in the relatives of patients with schizophrenia.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

METHOD: Participants were 42 relatives of patients with schizophrenia who completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), a brief coping strategies measure (COPE), the Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQR), and a measure of primary and secondary appraisals (Family Questionnaire).

RESULTS: In general, carers who viewed their relative's psychosis as chronic, who had a stronger illness identity (experience of symptoms), who held a stronger belief in the severity of its consequences, and who reported weaker beliefs in treatment control but stronger beliefs that their relative could exert control over their condition had higher distress scores. Coping through seeking emotional support, the use of religion/spirituality, active coping, acceptance, and positive reframing were associated with less distress, while coping through self-blame was associated with higher distress scores. Hierarchical regression demonstrated that illness perceptions and coping (acceptance, positive reframing, and self-blame), respectively, made significant additional contributions to the variance in distress when entered after demographics, and primary and secondary appraisals. Furthermore, a mediational analysis suggested that coping strategies characterized by greater positive reframing, less self-blame, and greater acceptance mediated the relationship between distress, and both illness identity and carer's beliefs about how much personal control the patient could exercise over their condition. There was no mediational effect of coping on the relationship between distress and carers' perceptions about symptom control through medical treatment.

CONCLUSION: Results provide partial but not unequivocal support for the self-regulation model in the current sample. Findings may invite us to consider the further use of the self-regulation/common sense model as a framework for understanding distress in the carers of people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

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