Psychosocial adjustment to multiple sclerosis: exploration of identity redefinition

Catherine Irvine, Cherie Davidson, Katrina Hoy, Andrea Lowe-Strong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)
453 Downloads (Pure)


Abstract: Purpose. As multiple sclerosis (MS) often occurs in the prime of life and is unpredictable in nature, there is likely to be a strong psychological effect, with changes in values and beliefs and how the individual sees him or her self. This article presents the findings of a focus group study which aimed to explore the subjective experiences of living with, and adjusting to, MS.Method. Seven individuals who had been diagnosed with MS for at least 5 years reflected on their reactions to being diagnosed, how they cope with the day to day challenges of the disease, and the changes that they have experienced. Data were transcribed verbatim and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.Results. Diagnosis was met with negative reactions: denial, concealment and diminished confidence. However, the majority reported that, over time, there were positive changes in terms of their values and outlook. It would appear that the functional difficulties and psychological challenges, such as uncertainty and depression, are ameliorated to some extent by an increased appreciation for life and spirituality.Conclusions. The findings provide insight into the psychological process of identity redefinition associated with adjusting to MS. Given this, interventions should target role/identity re-examination to assist individuals with MS in better managing the disease and enjoying life.Keywords: Identity redefinition, multiple sclerosis, psychosocial adjustment, self-concept, support
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-606
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 11 Mar 2009


  • Identity redefinition
  • multiple sclerosis
  • psychosocial adjustment
  • self-soncept
  • support


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