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Abstract

This descriptive study was designed to examine the disease experience of persons who have genital herpes by identifying the nature and frequency of disease-related stressors and coping responses associated with these stressors. Participants were 34 women and 26 men who were on average 5.3 years postdiagnosis, and experienced a mean of 6.4 recurrences per year.

Respondents reported a wide range of disease-related stressors (M = 7). The category of stressors identified most often was related to disease consequences (73.9%), and included difficulty with intimate relationships, difficulty with relationships involving family and friends, fear of transmission through both sexual activity and casual contact, and concern about negative effects on health. Respondents tended to use active coping, planning, and acceptance more often than passive strategies such as denial. Implications for clinical assessment and intervention are discussed.