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Int J MS Care. 2013 Summer;15(2):81-9. doi: 10.7224/1537-2073.2012-021.

Attributional style and depression in multiple sclerosis: the learned helplessness model.

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1
Psychology Department, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.

Abstract

Several etiologic theories have been proposed to explain depression in the general population. Studying these models and modifying them for use in the multiple sclerosis (MS) population may allow us to better understand depression in MS. According to the reformulated learned helplessness (LH) theory, individuals who attribute negative events to internal, stable, and global causes are more vulnerable to depression. This study differentiated attributional style that was or was not related to MS in 52 patients with MS to test the LH theory in this population and to determine possible differences between illness-related and non-illness-related attributions. Patients were administered measures of attributional style, daily stressors, disability, and depressive symptoms. Participants were more likely to list non-MS-related than MS-related causes of negative events on the Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ), and more-disabled participants listed significantly more MS-related causes than did less-disabled individuals. Non-MS-related attributional style correlated with stress and depressive symptoms, but MS-related attributional style did not correlate with disability or depressive symptoms. Stress mediated the effect of non-MS-related attributional style on depressive symptoms. These results suggest that, although attributional style appears to be an important construct in MS, it does not seem to be related directly to depressive symptoms; rather, it is related to more perceived stress, which in turn is related to increased depressive symptoms.

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