Background: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated demyelinating disease of the Central Nervous System (CNS) affecting 1.1 million people in the United States. Since the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in March 2020, a handful of studies have reported significant increases in psychological symptoms (i.e., depression, anxiety, fatigue) among pwMS (Montolese et al., 2020; Talaat et al., 2020). Recently, researchers have identified a two-factor structure of self-compassion (self-compassion vs. self-coldness; Brenner et al., 2017). Research suggests that self-compassion promotes adaptive, flexible emotional responding to setbacks, and well-being by promoting cognitive processes like acceptance, positive cognitive reappraisal, and problem solving, while, self-coldness, the negative counterpart of SC, is more strongly associated with psychopathology (Brenner et al., 2018). Although prior studies have linked self-compassion to greater health-related quality of life and resiliency in pwMS (Gedik, & Idiman, 2020; Nery-Hurwit et al., 2018), the two-factor structure of SC has not yet been examined in the MS population.
Objectives: The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to describe to the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on stress and health-related behavior based on differences in self-compassion, personality, and coping styles in a convenience sample of pwMS (N=143).
Methods: A cross-sectional self-report survey study of 143 adult patients with MS (pwMS) aged 26-90 was used to measure perceived COVID-19 stress, positive and negative dimensions of self-compassion, and coping. Advanced statistical methods for analyses of mediator and moderator effects of coping strategies will be used.
Results: Our expected results for mediation analyses were that adaptive problem-focused cognitive strategies (i.e. acceptance, positive reappraisal, and active coping) will mediate a relationship between self-compassion and lower perceived stress, while maladaptive emotion-focused strategies (i.e. self-blame, avoidance) will mediate a relationship between self-coldness and perceived stress. Spearmans correlations revealed that self-coldness, but not self-compassion was strongly correlated to perceived COVID-19 related stress (r = .30, p<.01). Self-coldness was positively related to substance use (r = .31, p <.01), behavioral disengagement (r = .46, p<.001), and self-blame (r =.63, p<.001), and negatively related to positive reframing (r = -2.9, p =.02). Self-compassion was positively related to active coping (r= .24, p<.05), positive reframing (r = 0.25, p<.05), planning (r = 0.3, p=.02), acceptance (r =0.4, p<0.001) and negatively related to behavioral disengagement (r = 0.30, p=.01), and self-blame (r = -.44, p<.001). Conclusions: This is the first study to examine the 2-factor structure of self-compassion on perceived COVID-19 stress through coping strategies.