First Advisor

Eric Mankowski

Term of Graduation

Spring 2006

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology






Fibromyalgia, Quality of life, Self-perception, Identity (Psychology)



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, vi, 143 pages)


This research sought to clarify the role of the self in chronic illness by developing and evaluating several new constructs, which intend to describe the extent to which illness permeates the self-concept. Following the works of Lewin and Asch, the concepts of central and peripheral regions of the self were elaborated to describe the state of illness within the self, termed "illness self-concept".

Three subsidiary constructs were introduced to further depict illness self-concept: directionality, pervasiveness, and illness self-consciousness. Directionality refers to whether illness drives the self or self drives illness. Pervasiveness refers to whether illness affects many or few regions of the self. Illness self-consciousness refers to the degree of preoccupation with illness. A 23-item scale was developed to assess illness self-concept (α = .94), with items addressing each construct. A 14-item scale measuring "illness self-concept support" (ISC Support, α = .89) was developed to assess whether family and friends reinforce illness as central or peripheral to the self.

I hypothesized that illness self-concept relates to adjustment such that the more illness is peripheral to the self, the better the adjustment. My second hypothesis was that personal, interpersonal, and illness-related factors would influence illness self-concept. The third hypothesis was that illness self-concept would predict additional variance in adjustment after controlling for each of these factors.

Fibromyalgia patients (n = 109) completed measures of illness self-concept, optimism, ISC support, illness intrusiveness, and functional status. Results supported hypothesis one, indicating that illness self-concept significantly predicted quality of life (R2Δ = .39) and depression (R2Δ = .24). Results supported hypothesis two, indicating that ISC support, optimism, illness intrusiveness and functional status each contribute to illness self-concept. Results supported hypothesis three, indicating that illness self-concept predicted substantial variance in adjustment even after controlling for personal, interpersonal, and illness-related factors.

All three hypotheses were strongly supported, indicating that illness self-concept is an important predictor of adjustment in chronic illness. This study demonstrated that the extent to which illness permeates the self-concept has implications for adjustment in fibromyalgia, and may be an important variable in improving psychological adjustment in other chronic illnesses.


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