Objectives. (1) To compare syphilis patients with healthy controls for the level of experienced stress and coping strategies; (2) to investi-gate their ways of coping with the stigma of sexually transferred disease (STD).
Method. Participants in the study were 21 patients with syphilis (14 male and 7 female) and 21 healthy controls pair-matched for sex and age. All subjects were examined using the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS, with additional items), and the patients additionally with the Mental Adjustment to Cancer (Mini-MAC) scale in the Polish adaptation.
Results. The syphilis patients as compared to healthy controls had experienced more severe stressful events, mostly associated with the stigma of syphilis. Almost all the healthy controls utilized active, task-oriented coping strategies, while the patients (particularly female) used avoidant coping and a wait-and-see strategy. Male patients with syphilis tended to utilize predominantly active ways of coping with the stigma, while females represented anxious coping.
Conclusions. The stigma of syphilis results in a high level of stress in STD patients, irrespective of gender. Their awareness of being stigmatized and exposed to noxious social conseąuences to a significant degreeprevents them from disclosing the truth about their condition, which may lead to their spreading the disease.