Coping with the disfiguring effects of vitiligo: A preliminary investigation into the effects of cognitive-behavioural therapy

Authors


Department of Psychology, London Guildhall University, Calcutta House, Old Castle Street, London E1 7NT, UK (e-mail: lpapadop@lgu.ac.uk).

Abstract

Vitiligo is a progressive condition involving a loss of pigmentation in the skin; it can be disfiguring and no effective treatment or cure exists. Although vitiligo's medical effects have been studied extensively, little attention has been paid to its psychological impact or to the effects of psychological state on the illness itself. To address these issues, the present study examined the effect of cognitive behavioural therapy on coping with vitiligo and adaptation to the negative effects on body image, quality of life and self-esteem in adult patients. The study also examined whether any psychological gains acquired from psychological therapy would influence the progression of the condition itself. Two matched groups of vitiligo patients were compared, one of which received cognitive-behavioural therapy over a period of 8 weeks, while the other receivedno changes to their treatment status. All patients were assessed on self-esteem, body image and quality of life, prior to, immediately following and 5 months following the end of therapy. The progression of the condition was assessed by photographing patients prior to the start of counselling and 5 months following counselling. Results suggest that patients can benefit from cognitive-behavioural therapy in terms of coping and living with vitiligo. There is also preliminary evidence to suggest that psychological therapy may have a positive effect on the progression of the condition itself. Implications for incorporating psychological counselling into patient care and management are discussed.

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