Early nurturing experiences, self-compassion, hyperarousal and scleroderma the way we relate to ourselves may determine disease progression

Karen Kearney, Richard E. Hicks

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Abstract

Scleroderma is a rare, painful and complex autoimmune connective tissue disease that can lead to death. The
physiology of symptom onset and progression and the psychological aspects of living with this chronic disease
have been studied fairly extensively. However, there is limited knowledge about scleroderma and negative
physiological arousal (hyper-arousal: linked to immune dysfunction resulting in autoimmunity in the face of
stressful events) and how levels of hyper-arousal are related to stress experienced at an early age; to emotion
regulation coping strategies such as self-compassion; and to when scleroderma is experienced (earlier or later
onset). Knowledge about these relationships may be important information for the treatment of scleroderma and
related illnesses. This study addressed these relationships for scleroderma by examining how hyper-arousal was
linked to these psychosocial experiences of stress, to coping strategies, and to age of disease onset.
A within group design was utilized. A total of 122 participants were recruited from Australia (39) the United
Kingdom (81) and country not specified (2) and invited to complete an online or a hard copy survey. Lower
positive early life experiences, lower levels of self-compassion and an earlier onset of disease were all related to
elevated levels of hyper-arousal in individuals diagnosed with scleroderma. A regression equation showed all three
contributed significantly to the experienced hyper-arousal. The findings suggest that greater self-compassion may
be a determining factor in how earlier emotional experiences are managed and in predicting lower hyper-arousal in
terms of this disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-25
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Psychological Studies
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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  • Student Theses

    Scleroderma: the relationship of psychosocial stress and levels of compassion, to psychological injury, age of onset and severity of disease symptoms

    Author: Kearney, K., 13 Jun 2015

    Supervisor: Hicks, R. E. (Supervisor), Stapleton, P. (Supervisor) & Bartrum, D. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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