Role of illness representations and coping in patients with atopic dermatitis: a cross-sectional study


  • Conflicts of interest

    • None declared.

    Funding sources

    • None declared.



Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a skin disease accompanied by psychological burden. It has been shown for other chronic diseases that illness representations and coping strategies are associated with disease-related burden and other outcome variables like time until patients return to work or health care use.


The goal of this cross-sectional study was to investigate whether illness representations and coping strategies are correlated with the severity of AD and self-rated physical impairment of the patients.


A total of 109 AD patients were examined at the beginning of their stay at a rehabilitation centre. They filled in validated questionnaires to measure illness perceptions (IPQ), coping strategies (EBS) and self-rated physical well-being (FEW). In addition, the severity of AD (SCORAD) was determined by a doctor.


Linear regression analysis revealed that a considerable amount of the variance in self-rated physical well-being (51%) could be predicted by particular illness perceptions and coping. Subsequent multiple mediation analyses indicated that certain coping strategies (active problem solving and depressive reactions) mediated the effect of illness representations on self-rated physical well-being. In contrast, only 7.4% of the SCORAD could be predicted by the IPQ scale illness identity.


This study showed that illness representations and coping are highly associated with self-rated physical impairment in AD patients. Therefore, this patient group might profit from cognitive behavioural interventions designed to alter patients' illness perceptions. The hypothesis that a modification in illness perceptions leads to a faster recovery and a more rapid return to work should be tested in future randomized controlled trials.