MS & Resilience: What the research tells us

Studies show that building resilience can be beneficial for people with multiple sclerosis When a person is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, treatment plans often become the immediate and predominant focus. However, there is growing evidence that equal importance must be placed on addressing the significant psychological impact that this diagnosis can have. In particular, it is known that the potential life adjustments made in the first few years after diagnosis (i.e. relating to employment, education, relationships and social participation) can negatively impact emotional wellbeing, which has been shown to lead to distress, anxiety, depression and a reduction in quality of life.

For these reasons, there has been interest in discovering ways to help support people effectively through this process. One approach that has shown promise is building resilience. Resilience is seen as the ability to cope with a crisis, adversity or significant levels of stress mentally and emotionally.

Recent research from Japan1 looked at the relationship between resilience, clinical factors in multiple sclerosis and psychological symptoms. Interestingly, they found that there was no link between resilience and either expanded disability status scale or disease duration.

Essentially, they didn’t find that an individual’s resilience was tied to their level of disability or how long they had been living with multiple sclerosis. However, they did find that people who were more resilient reported a better quality of life. In addition, higher levels of resilience also seemed to help prevent or reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. These results help provide evidence that programs that could help build resilience in people living with multiple sclerosis may be beneficial.

One such program, called “Everyday Matters,” has been developed by the National MS Society in the United States. It was created in recognition of resilience playing an important role in healthy ageing, and thus a specifically designed version may also help people living with multiple sclerosis as they age. The six-week program is delivered via a group teleconferencing platform, which is further supported by videos, additional reading and social participation activities. The program aims to help people living with multiple sclerosis find happiness in their life, even during times of adversity, by teaching them simple and proven strategies for navigating these situations.

A small trial study2 looking into the effectiveness of the program was published recently and showed that it significantly improved resilience. Participants reported that they found the program helpful and thought the benefits outweighed the effort of being involved.

We can place this research into context through the fantastic words of Australian psychologist Dr Sally Shaw, who says, “with or without the challenge of MS, we all want to be ‘resilient’ human beings! Thankfully, we are now beginning to understand that we can take an active role in growing and developing our own levels of resilience.”

Prepared by MStranslate

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