Evaluating illness representations and illness intrusiveness ratings in individuals with and without inflammatory bowel disease

Doris Maria Sevcik, Fordham University


Illness representations and illness intrusiveness are important aspects of the experience of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) which consists of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease. How individuals with IBD, their family, their friends, and the general population think about or make sense of this disease is related to how sufferers manage their illness and how caretakers handle their responsibilities. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of IBD on these individuals. Illness representations including serious consequences, symptom variability, curability, and personal responsibility were considered. Illness intrusiveness ratings were also considered in terms of the level of interference IBD has in different areas of an individual's life. Subjects were recruited from an advertisement in the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America newsletters and from a University in the Northeast. The sample of 31 IBD sufferers, 48 family and friends, and 67 students completed paper-and-pencil questionnaires measuring illness representations and illness intrusiveness ratings. Results indicated that IBD patients viewed IBD as having serious consequences, being incurable, themselves as not personally responsible, their symptoms as not so variable, and the disease as not so intrusive when compared to social networks and students. Overall, the hypotheses were unsupported, though not all comparisons between IBD, social networks, and students were significant. The significant hypothesized finding was related to illness intrusiveness and was between IBD patients and social networks and IBD patients and students. The IBD patients in this study did not find the illness to interfere greatly in their lives. The results of this study demonstrate that IBD patients appear to understand and cope well with their illness. However, it may be that the IBD subjects who volunteered for the study were more psychologically mature than those who did not volunteer. Further education about the nature of IBD is still necessary for family and friends of IBD sufferers who can learn more about the care of their loved ones. Increasing awareness about IBD for the general population may be critical to addressing the stigma and mystery associated with the disease.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Physiological psychology

Recommended Citation

Sevcik, Doris Maria, "Evaluating illness representations and illness intrusiveness ratings in individuals with and without inflammatory bowel disease" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3159398.