Pain, poor coping skills diminish quality of life for HIV patients

HIV patients who live in pain and use poor coping strategies to handle the stress of their illness also report that they have less energy and more limits on their physical, social and work activities, according to a new study. Patients who use self-distraction techniques or “give up trying to deal with” HIV-related stress feel less energetic, and those who use self-distraction or drugs or alcohol to cope say that their health limits their social activities, according to Mark Vosvick, Ph.D., of the University of North Texas and colleagues. From the Center for the Advancement of Health :PAIN, POOR COPING SKILLS DIMINISH QUALITY OF LIFE FOR HIV PATIENTS

HIV patients who live in pain and use poor coping strategies to handle the stress of their illness also report that they have less energy and more limits on their physical, social and work activities, according to a new study.

Patients who use self-distraction techniques or “give up trying to deal with” HIV-related stress feel less energetic, and those who use self-distraction or drugs or alcohol to cope say that their health limits their social activities, according to Mark Vosvick, Ph.D., of the University of North Texas and colleagues.

Pain was also a big factor in diminishing the quality of life for the study participants, who said that it affected everything from their ability to carry groceries to their performance at work and at school.

“When treating patients with HIV, health care providers must attend not only to disease status but also to the individual’s reports of pain. This is particularly important given that pain is often undertreated in AIDS patients,” Vosvick says.

Vosvick and colleagues collected information from 142 HIV-positive women and men about their coping strategies, overall health and pain, and their quality of life.

Forty percent of the study participants reported having moderate to severe pain. Most patients in the study reported few limitations on their daily activities, but said that their health affected their performance of vigorous activities like lifting objects or running.

The most frequently used coping strategies were self-distraction and “venting” – talking about stress to relieve unpleasant feelings.

Developing and encouraging more adaptive ways to cope with stress should become a priority for HIV care, according to the researchers, especially since many patients taking antiretroviral drugs are living longer lives.

“Unfortunately, some coping strategies used to reduce immediate stress may incur a high cost in terms of poorer quality of life over time,” Vosvick says.

The study was published in the January-February 2003 issue of Psychosomatics and was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and a National Research Service Award postdoctoral training grant.


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