Depression in the Multiple Sclerosis Dyad: The Role of Depression in the Relationship Between MS Patients and Their Significant Others

Open Access
Zollman, Joshua Wald
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Peter Andrew Arnett, Thesis Supervisor
  • Frank Gerard Hillary, Honors Advisor
  • multiple sclerosis
  • depression
  • dyad
  • significant other
  • neuropsychology
  • beck depression inventory
  • congruence
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory, neurodegenerative disease affecting the central nervous system (Tullman, 2013). Depression is highly prevalent in MS patients, with an estimated lifetime risk of 50% (Dennison, Moss-Morris, & Chalder, 2009). Research has demonstrated that levels of adjustment, including depression, between MS patients and their caregivers are highly correlated (Pakenham, 1998). Additionally, it has been shown that similarity in interpretation of symptoms between patients with chronic illness and their caregivers (reported symptom congruence) leads to more positive outcomes, including the use of more effective coping strategies (Klinedinst, Clark, Blanton, & Wolf, 2007). The purpose of the current study was to investigate levels of depression and reported symptom congruence between MS patients and their significant others in order to better understand depression and its subsequent relationship to social support in the context of MS. Fifty-four patients with MS (36 female, 18 male) were recruited for neuropsychological testing. The patients and their significant others filled out self-report measures including the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II), Beck Depression Inventory Fast Screen (BDI-FS), the Chicago Multiscale Depression Inventory (CMDI), and the Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ). Significant other depression was found to be moderately correlated with patient depression when controlling for overall MS disability (as measured by the Expanded Disability Status Scale: EDSS), r(46) = .35, p = .012. Additionally, reported depressive symptom congruence was found to be moderately negatively correlated with patient depression r(47) = .48, p < .01. The results demonstrated that patient and significant other depression are closely linked, and that reported symptom congruence is a strong indicator of MS patient depression outcomes. This suggests that depressed MS patients might benefit from a conjoint approach that involves psychotherapeutic treatment of both patient and significant other simultaneously.