#CMSC17 – Feeling of Social Stigma Makes Depression in MS More Likely, Study Reports

#CMSC17 – Feeling of Social Stigma Makes Depression in MS More Likely, Study Reports

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who feel stigmatized because of their condition are more likely to have depression,  research presented at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers Annual Meeting showed.

The Pennsylvania State University research team said the impact of the stigma can be eased by lots of social support, a sense of belonging, and a sense of independence.

Their study was based on information from the semiannual survey of the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis, which covered 5,413 people with MS. The presentation was titled “The Contribution of Stigma to Depression Symptoms and Depression Status Among Individuals Living with Multiple Sclerosis.” The New Orleans conference started May 24 and ends May 27.

Although earlier studies have concluded that people with MS often experience social stigma, there has been little research on how the stigma affects MS patients. Meanwhile, it is well-known that about half of all MS patients develop depression.

The Penn State team posited that feeling stigmatized would make the psychological burden of MS even worse.

In the survey, patients were asked whether they felt stigmatized and to rate their level of depression. After a year, researchers collected depression ratings again.

When taking into account demographic and health-behavior factors that could also influence depression, the team’s analysis showed that a patient’s feeling of stigma predicted depression in both the first year and a year later. The impact that a perception of stigma had on depression a year later was significant even when researchers adjusted the analysis for levels of depression at the beginning of the study.

The team found that the perception of stigma alone contributed to 39 percent of the factors impacting depression. To make sure their analysis was valid, the researchers used a more stringent type of analysis as well. It divided patients into two groups — depressed, and not depressed. The second analysis also linked the perception of stigma to depression.

Psychosocial reserve is a term that behavioral scientists have coined for psychological and social resources or support that a person can draw on when needed. The Penn State researchers said that when a person with MS has a deep psychosocial reserve, it can lower the impact that a perception of stigma has on their depression. The team said psychosocial reserve included level of social support, a person’s sense of belonging, and a person’s capacity to act independently and make free choices.

This type of research could help shape efforts to target psychosocial health and depression in MS, the team said.

The study was funded by the American Psychological Foundation, the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

One comment

  1. Susan says:


    “The Hidden Storm”
    “A picture is worth a thousand words”. A phrase that many have heard and that is well known among the many writers of this world. This particular group of words is stating that a photograph can reveal to the reader a story, a tragedy, or a celebration, the same and just as well as an editorial reveals a story through the words of a writer. An event frozen in time, with one click of the camera or one stroke of the pen. Epic, historical, personal tragedies, and the results of a pure evil nature, are unmasked through a photograph. The personification of human suffering catches our eyes and we can not turn away.
    Pictures of 911 reveal the horror, anguish, and malicious acts that occurred on a day that will forever be remembered, and through pictures, a person can re-live that event at just a glance. Torment and torture are depicted when one shuffles through the many photographs of World War II-concentration camps, Vietnam, deadly wrecks, or murder scenes. To a person viewing these types of pictures the catastrophic nature is obvious.
    What about a photograph that emits the perfect fairy tale wedding? A beautiful bride in her princess dress, and a mother and father by her side, smile revealing their pride and joy. In this case, yes, “the perfect picture” was captured and the fairy tale unfolds within the observer’s imagination, but there is an untold story. One that is hidden behind a mask. A smile that conceals a personal disaster that can not be known without the narrative that comes with the written word or verbatim explaining what is entangled deep within the idealization that emerges from just one flick of the photographer’s camera. This photo is worth a thousand and one words. It takes a bit more than just glancing at what was the perfect day. Held within the eyes and behind the smile of the mother of the bride (my eyes, my smile) is a debilitating disease called Multiple Sclerosis or MS, a progressive horror that she does not let define her, but that does invade and destroy all that she is. The epitome of pain and suffering. MS wears many faces and often hides behind bright, happy smiles,-never revealing the disease that lies within-attacking and wreaking havoc through-out. A picture, that does not reveal the fear that surrounds and consumes one’s life-every bone, muscle, and nerve. The ultimate thief, but a crime that goes unpunished, stealing from the body that it encompasses. In order to understand her devastation, one must know what she endures day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute.
    Multiple Sclerosis is an auto-immune disorder. The system that is supposed to protect and keep you healthy, decides instead to attack parts of your body that are vital to every day functions. The protective covering of nerve cells are damaged. The symptoms that I refer to as “my never-ending storm”, can be unpredictable with varying intensity at every shore. Some experience fatigue, numbness, weakness, pain, spasms, balance problems, dizziness, memory loss, slurred or forgotten speech and trouble swallowing. Severe cases or those which have progressed can bring about paralysis, vision loss, and diminished brain function.
    A storm’s intensity is measured by categories. Multiple Sclerosis is placed in four different types, but the intensity varies in each, and can be different for each person. Type one is called Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)-the most common-involves attacks with partial or complete recovery and can have no progression, type two- Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS)-progresses steadily, type three-Primary-progressive (PPMS)-steadily worsens as it progresses from the beginning, and type four-Progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS)-the least common (rarest)-a steady progression with the occasional exacerbations or flare-up. There may not be any recovery and it continues to progress without remission. My number is “four”, and just reading it, as it flows from my keyboard, is terrifying.
    The day and life of someone suffering with MS can be exhausting. Your day always begins the night before. First, make sure to set your alarm 2 to 3 hours ahead of the time that you must leave. You must have time enough to not only get ready, but to encourage yourself to “breathe” past the excruciating pain. I wish I could tell you that this will ease up as you begin to get ready, but it won’t. You’ve got this, do NOT let MS win. Wait! Did you remember to set the alarm in the first place? Probably not, because you do not remember where you put the sticky note that you have to write on, so that you will recall what you need to do. The luggage you will carry daily consists of lots of pain and weakness. This is twenty-four-seven, so get used to it. Today might be the day that you are unable to lift your head. An all consuming fatigue, so great that you are rendered useless for the next few days, or more. I stopped counting, because MS likes to keep you guessing.
    A description of the pain you will be feeling can be compared to razor blades being raked across every part of your body. You will also want to add to it by sticking your finger in a light socket, a taser against your skin, and for fun, a lighted match to various places on your body.
    Ok, if you are up yet, you can somewhat walk to your closet. Oh, wow, look at the cute clothes hanging so desperately, hoping you will choose them to wear today. No, not today, just the thought of them slicing across your skin extracts a loud, “VETO”. Your hands would probably not cooperate as they attempt to button the shirt, anyway. Before you leave do not forget to grab an ice chest to put your feet and legs in, and “no” you can not take them out. The burning cold is here to stay for the duration that is the rest of your life.
    Ok, books-which ones are needed? Was your homework done? What class are you even getting ready for? Class? Were you in class yesterday? The questions are never-ending and the circus continues with many, many trips back into the house for things you have forgotten. Maybe you should add this to the list you have on your sticky-note reminders. In addition you will want to incorporate some anxiety that comes along with thoughts of possibly having to call your husband home (Clyde), from work (Abilene) to drive you to school, because, today, you will not be driving. This causes a whole other group of terrifying thoughts of not being able to drive, tomorrow. Hell, you think, will I be able to walk when I wake up the next day? A day that will start over with this craziness that is your life. Day turn into the week that MS decides that it is time to take another function, beginning the crippling affects of the storm that continues to ravage and plunder the shores of your central nervous system.
    Reach within “the perfect picture” and see the joy mixed with sadness, for a daughter taking steps toward a great future. Take your time as you gaze upon it, and not only see and feel the storm, but absorb the strength, a will to persevere, and a determination to achieve goals. The essence of strength, my strength. This can not be understood without the description of what transpires on a day to day basis, in the life and times of someone with MS, but know this, MS is a bitch, and she fights dirty, but maybe, just maybe, she has met her match.
    As the story flows from within the photograph, out toward you, forecasting the happily-ever- after, consume the happiness that radiates and shines so brightly. I say, “Bring it on, my little MS storm-I choose to dance in the rain”. The outcome of the “perfect picture” perhaps, can have the reader thinking about the story that might be left untold without the written or typed word. An account that must coincide with the image, in order to execute everything that the photo might hold within itself.

    Works Cited
    Martin, Gary. “Phrases, Sayings, Idioms and Expressions at.” RSS. Web. 24 Oct. 2015

    2 “Home.” National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Web. 24 Oct. 2015.

    Susan Young 2015
    Copyright 2015 picture available upon email request

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