Assessing Illness Representations of Chronic Illness: Explorations of Their Disease-Specific Nature

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Abstract

Elaborating on the five-dimensional structure of illness representation, as described in the self-regulation model of Leventhal (1980), the present study is aimed at identifying the relevance of this generic structure for two chronic illnesses: chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and Addison's disease (AD). Factor analyses showed the importance of the five dimensions identity, time-line, control/cure, cause, and consequences to differ according to the type of disease. That is, the items representing the five dimensions merged together for CFS patients and AD patients in a different manner and thereby produced different factor solutions for the two patient groups. In CFS patients, a four-factor solution was identified with manageability, seriousness, personal responsibility, and external cause as the factors. In AD patients a four-factor solution was also identified but with seriousness, cause, chronicity, and controllability as the factors. The value of these findings for our understanding of the disease-specific nature of illness representation is discussed.

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