Belief in ability to control chronic illness: Associated evaluations and medical experiences


Cumberland College of Health Sciences, P.O. Box 170, Lidcombe, N.S.W., 2141


Questionnaires from 156 people with scleroderma, a serious, progressive, chronic disease, were used to investigate factors in patients' medical histories associated with belief in ability to control relapses, a variable previously found to be related to adjustment to illness. The 80 subjects who perceived themselves as having the ability to control relapses were more likely to have had initial contact with a helpful general practitioner and to have experienced remission of symptoms in the last year. They did not differ significantly from the 76 helpless patients in time since onset of illness, time taken to diagnose the disease, severity of symptoms, handicaps experienced, or having had contact with helpful specialist physicians. Evaluative processes postulated by Taylor (1983) as methods of coping with threatening events were used more frequently by the perceived control group. These involved making causal attributions regarding the illness, construing benefits from the event, focusing on attributes that made them appear advantaged, creating hypothetically worse worlds and finding meaning in their illness.