Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 74 Issue 4 (December 2001), Pages 419-553

Body experience and mental representation of body image in patients with haematological malignancies and cancer as assessed with the Body Grid (pages 507-521)

The domain of body image plays a central role in the quality of life of patients with haematological malignancies and metastasized cancer, since the disease itself as well as the enrolled therapies interfere with psychological and bodily well‐being. We approached this highly subjective field by using the repertory grid technique and hypothesized that patients would display a restricted body image, focusing on functional aspects of the body. In all, 55 in‐patients (27 men, 28 women, M age = 45.7 yrs, N = 46 with haematological malignancies, N = 9 with metastasized cancer), at the time of initial diagnosis, were included in the study and assessed with the Body Grid, an instrument specifically designed by us for the exploration of body image. The data were analysed by principal component analysis (PCA) and construct categorization. Further, 42 chronic tinnitus sufferers (20 male, 22 female, M age = 46.5 yrs) served as a comparison group. Based on the constructs elicited, six construct categories were formulated in the sense of a first attempt of a hierarchical model (emotion, control, activity, strength, function, appearance). The central constructs (373 construct pairs) were assigned to these categories by three inter‐raters. The categories appeared in the following order of frequency: function (27.1%), emotion (20.4%), strength (20.1%), activity (15%), control (10.2%) and appearance (7.2%). PCA indicated that the patients mainly demonstrated a restricted view of their body. In the tinnitus group, the most frequent category proved to be activity (21.3%), closely followed by function (21.1%) and control (20.9%). The body image was also restricted (PCA). The restriction of body image, together with the specific construct choice, seen in the haematology and cancer patients reflects the existential threat of the disease and may serve as a coping strategy. The high percentage of emotional constructs may mirror the patients' need for further support. The distinct distribution of construct categories in the two different patient samples supports the applicability of the proposed preliminary model.

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