Objectives. The aims of the study were: (1) to examine coping strategies among multiple sclerosis (MS) patients and healthy individuals, and (2) to assess correlation of coping strategies with socio-demographic factors and clinical parameters in MS patients.
Method. The research sample consisted of 60 patients with multiple sclerosis, while the homogeneous control group - of 60 healthy individuals. Both groups were asked to complete the 'Coping Orientations to Problems Experienced'(COPE) questionnaire by Carver, Scheier & Weintraub, in the Polish adaptation by Wrześniewski [1, 2]. Moreover, in MS patients further socio-demographic variables, such as age, gender, education level, as well as clinical characteristics regarding the duration of illness, age at onset and type of MS, disability level (assessed using the EDSS) were controlled.
Results. Significant differences in coping strategies were found between MS patients and healthy controls. MS patients, especially women suffering from MS, used the strategies of turning to religion and seeking emotional social support more frequently than did the controls. MS patients were also more inclined to accept stressful situations, including their illness. In contrast to the healthy controls, MS patients were not able to apply the problem-solving strategy. Furthermore, in multiple sclerosis some statistically significant correlations of coping strategies were noted, namely with gender (turning to religion and seeking emotional support was more frequent in women) and with clinical data (the patient's disability level, MS type, age at onset, and duration of illness).
Conclusions. The research findings concerning correlation of coping strategies with psychosocial factors may contribute to the development of psychotherapeutic interventions helping MS patients to adapt to their illness.