Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Over the past 50 years, chronic illness has become the principal cause of disability and the need for health care services in the United States (Schattner, Shahar, & Shakra, 2012). Chronic illness currently accounts for 78 percent of health care costs in the United States and affects 45 percent of the population. Due to this extreme growth, it is important to have an understanding of the disorders themselves and the individuals living with them. An online survey was used to measure perceived stress and coping behaviors in participants diagnosed with lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, any chronic illness, and “healthy” adults. Illness intrusiveness was also measured in the autoimmune sample. Illness activity was be measured using the Illness Intrusiveness Rating Scale (IIRS). The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) was used to measure perceived stress. Coping behaviors were measured using The COPE Inventory. It was expected that those with autoimmune disorders would use more positive coping behaviors than “healthy” individuals, but that the two samples would use similar levels of negative coping behaviors. In both samples, it was hypothesized that perceived stress levels would be similar, but that elevated levels of perceived stress would relate negatively to the use of effective coping behaviors, and positively to less effective coping behaviors. Among the autoimmune sample, it was expected that higher level of illness intrusiveness would positively relate to perceived stress, but negatively affect positive coping behaviors. It was also expected that the longer that participants had been diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder, the more effective their coping behaviors would be. Although autoimmune diagnosis and preferred coping behaviors were found to be unrelated, elevated levels of perceived stress were found to be significantly related to the use of less effective coping behaviors in all diagnostic categories. The study looked at the relationship between illness intrusiveness and perceived stress, and the two variables were found to be significantly related in all three of the autoimmune samples. The possible implications of this study can be extensive. Clinicians will be better able to understand individuals living with autoimmune disorders and how these disorders influence the individual’s perceived stress and coping behaviors.


Dr. Carol Patrick

Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type



© 2014 Lyndsey M. Gilmore


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Psychology Commons