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How do women experience myocardial infarction? A qualitative exploration of illness perceptions, adjustment and coping

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While UK Department of Health policy recognizes the importance of secondary prevention and rehabilitation following a cardiac event, there still appears a dearth of research addressing women's needs. This study aimed to explore adjustment in terms of women's perception of their cardiac event, impact on relationships and coping strategies employed. Five women suffering first time MI were interviewed, using a semi-structured format and were telephoned 2 months later. Data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Perceptions included: Making Sense of the Event, Cognitive and Emotional Responses and Self-beliefs. Relationships issues were: Others' Reactions and Change in Relationships and Roles. Cognitive and Behavioural strategies and Support from others (including cardiac rehabilitation) formed coping strategies. For most participants, the event was unexpected evoking uncertainty and later, emotions extending beyond the more widely accepted depression and anxiety. Women tended to minimize severity of symptoms and impact of event (perhaps as a way of coping and protecting others), displaying a strong sense of optimism and hope that life would soon return to "normal". However, it appeared this was difficult to maintain and the experience seemed to challenge relationships and roles. The findings suggest recommendations for further research with possible implications for clinical practice.
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Keywords: Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis; Women; adjustment; anxiety; behavioural coping strategies; cognitive coping strategies; coping; depression; perceptions; relationships; support

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Kings College Hospital, London 2: South London and Maudsley NHS Trust & Institute of Psychiatry, London 3: Centre for Applied Social & Psychological Development, Salomons, Canterbury Christ Church University College, Kent, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2007

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