Is health anxiety a significant problem for individuals with multiple sclerosis?
Although symptoms of anxiety and depression are often present in individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), less is known about the role of health anxiety in this population. This study investigated the relationship between health anxiety and coping in a sample of people with MS (n = 246). Participants with MS reported higher levels of health anxiety compared to an age-matched control sample. Furthermore, compared to normal levels of health anxiety, participants with MS with elevated health anxiety (around 25%) were differentiated by endorsement of greater use of Emotional Preoccupation and Social Support and less use of Problem-Focused Coping. In addition, participants with elevated health anxiety experienced greater disability and generalized anxiety. We further explored the overlap between generalized anxiety and health anxiety in understanding coping strategies and found that health anxiety and generalized anxiety were both uniquely associated with Emotional Preoccupation coping, whereas only health anxiety was uniquely associated with Problem-Focused coping. The results provide support for the importance of assessing health anxiety in individuals with MS over and above generalized anxiety. Potential avenues for research and clinical practice are described.
KeywordsMultiple sclerosis Health anxiety Coping Anxiety
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