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Global meaning and emotional expressivity as possible protective and mediating factors to mental health status and psychological adjustment to breast cancer. / Fotios, Anagnostopoulos

Swansea University Author: Fotios, Anagnostopoulos

Abstract

Based on theories of adjustment to chronic illness, cognitive and emotional processing of traumatic events, and meaning- making in the context of stress and coping, this study explored two factors believed to influence psychological adjustment to breast cancer. The main variables of interest was exi...

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Published: 2008
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa42951
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Abstract: Based on theories of adjustment to chronic illness, cognitive and emotional processing of traumatic events, and meaning- making in the context of stress and coping, this study explored two factors believed to influence psychological adjustment to breast cancer. The main variables of interest was existential meaning (defined as the existence of purpose, and personal meaning in life) and emotional expressivity (characterized by the outwardly display of emotions). The aim was twofold: First, to test whether high levels of existential meaning or expressivity (moderators) could weaken the effect of adverse psychological responses to breast cancer (intrusive thoughts) on psychological adjustment to it. Second, to test whether the higher the intensity of the adverse psychological responses to cancer (e.g., intrusive thoughts, helplessness), the lower a patient’s existential meaning or emotional expressivity levels (mediators), which would, in turn, be associated with higher levels of psychological maladjustment. One hundred and fifty three women with breast cancer, five years on average after diagnosis of their disease, were recruited from the breast clinic of an Athenian public cancer hospital, during their follow- up. They completed interview and mail surveys that assessed their level of existential meaning, emotional expressivity, and approach to coping. Main results of the study show that (a) as unwanted, recurrent, and uncontrollable intrusive thoughts and memories about breast cancer become more disturbing, psychological adjustment becomes poorer, (b) as sense of existential meaning, coherence and purpose in life become stronger, psychological adjustment to breast cancer is enhanced, (c) existential meaning partially mediates the relationship between psychological responses to breast cancer and psychological adjustment to it. Implications of these findings for future research, theory development, and clinical practice are discussed.
Keywords: Meaning-making, breast cancer,
College: Swansea University Medical School