• attractiveness;
  • body concept;
  • body image;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • sexuality;
  • vitality

Pfaffenberger N, Gutweniger S, Kopp M, Seeber B, Stürz K, Berger T, Günther V. Impaired body image in patients with multiple sclerosis. Acta Neurol Scand: 2011: 124: 165–170. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Objective –  Despite the growing research on body image disturbances in chronically ill patients, reports of such disturbances in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) are scarce. The aim of this study was to assess the occurrence of different aspects of body image disturbances in patients with MS, taking into account the disability status as well as depressive symptoms.

Materials & methods –  Forty patients with MS and 28 healthy controls were investigated with questionnaires assessing attractiveness/self-confidence, accentuation of external appearance, worries about possible physical deficits, sexual problems, vitality and depressive symptoms. In MS patients, medical parameters like the expanded disability status were assessed too.

Results –  In comparison with healthy controls, the MS patients, being although only mildly disabled and in a quite stable mood, reported significantly higher worries about physical deficits, described a significantly worse body appraisal and significantly more sexual problems. While female MS patients predominantly suffered from worries concerning physical deficits and feelings of being less attractive, sexual problems were of particular concern in male MS patients.

Conclusions –  Even mildly impaired MS patients who are not markedly depressed have to deal with problems of body image. Improvement of body image perception in MS patients taking gender-specific differences into account represents a promising area of future psychological research.