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Behav Res Ther. 1990;28(4):297-304.

The relationship of appraisal and coping to chronic illness adjustment.

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  • 1Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle.


There is evidence that adaptation to chronic illness may be affected by psychological factors, especially how patients appraise and cope with the stress of their illness. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationship of stress appraisal and coping responses to multiple behavioral indices of illness adjustment among patients with diverse chronic medical conditions. One hundred and one patients admitted to a multidisciplinary medicine/psychiatry unit completed measures of functional impairment, depression, symptom severity, and the Ways of Coping Checklist--Revised. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that emotion-focused coping was positively related to poor psychosocial adjustment and depression after controlling for physician rated disease severity. Appraising chronic illness as holding one back predicted greater emotion-focused coping responses and poorer adjustment to illness. The use of problem-focused coping strategies was generally unrelated to illness adjustment. These findings suggest the presence of an emotion-focused coping triad consisting of wishful thinking, self blame, and avoidance, all of which appear to be maladaptive strategies when coping with chronic medical conditions. Implications for coping skills training and the need for longitudinal research is discussed.

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