Temperament Can Play a Big Role in Quality of Life with MS

Researchers say if a person with multiple sclerosis is irritable or anxious, it can make overcoming the obstacles of their disease much more difficult.


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The temperament that people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are born with could affect their quality of life.

That’s the conclusion of a study presented at the Consortium for MS Centers (CMSC), held recently in Nashville, Tennessee.

The research concluded that people with MS with depressive and cyclothymic temperament had a lower quality of life, while people with an excessively positive (hyperthymic) temperament showed a higher quality quotient.

These results suggest that a potential evaluation of temperament types in people with MS could help to identify people who need more support to improve their quality of life.

This support takes into consideration biological factors (genetics, biochemical, etc.), psychological factors (mood, personality, temperament, etc.), and social factors (cultural, family, socioeconomic, etc.).

“The influence of personality on health-related quality of life in patients with multiple sclerosis has been the focus of previous studies showing that introversion and neuroticism were related to reduced health-related quality of life. However, no data existed on the impact of temperament on quality of life in this patient group.” Nicholas LaRocca, vice president of healthcare delivery and policy research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, told Healthline.

“Temperament is permanent — what we are born with. Personality is what is developed with social experiences,” explained LaRocca. “This is not something that’s been focused on in MS. There has been more focus on the impact of the disease on our social status but not focusing on concept of temperament.”

What the study revealed

The study looked at five temperament types.

They were depressive, cyclothymic, hyperthymic, irritable, and anxious.

Cyclothymia is a condition similar to bipolar disorder but in a milder, more chronic form. Its symptoms include emotional highs and lows. A rollercoaster, in effect.

Hyperthymic is defined by being exceptionally positive, high-energy, and enthusiastic.

The study results were independent of current disability status, immunomodulatory treatments, and affective comorbidities.

The evaluation of quality of life included activities of daily living, psychological well-being, symptoms, relationships with friends, relationships with family, sentimental and sexual life, coping, rejection, and relationship with the healthcare system.

Researchers looked at 139 people living with MS, recruited from a specialized outpatient clinic of the general hospital of Vienna, Austria.

Health-related quality of life was measured by “The Multiple Sclerosis International Quality of Life Questionnaire (MusiQol).”

Temperament was measured by “Temperament Evaluation of Memphis, Pisa, Paris, and San Diego Questionnaire — Münster version (briefTEMPS-M).”

Disability was determined by the “Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDDS).”

The participants answered a “multidimensional, self-administered, patient-focused questionnaire that refers to the last four weeks and consists of 31 items, describing 9 dimensions of health-related quality of life.”

“MS is a factor that influences QOL. What you bring to MS, in terms of personality and experiences in life, are going to effect how you react to MS and life with MS,” LaRocca explained.

“How much is temperament and how much is terms of personality is difficult to detangle. It is important to note that there is a lot that we can do to live as well as possible with MS in taking care of comorbidities and modifiable risk factors that can make life more difficult. Dealing with social support, counseling, learning about MS, developing positive attitude toward your own ability to deal with the illness. There are all sorts of things people can do which ultimately effect QOL.”

How to tame temperament

LaRocca recommends not assuming you’re doomed if you have a certain temperament.

“There is a lot you can do,” he said. “Over the course of childhood through adulthood, you acquire certain personality traits — it all goes into how you respond to MS.”

Colt Outman, who lives with multiple sclerosis, explained to Healthline that he relies on his positive attitude to live a better life.

Diagnosed in 2016, Colt cannot see well out of his left eye. He slurs and stutters during speech.

“With all that said, I’m closer to my family than I have ever been. I like to think I’m an inspiration to all my family, friends, and coworkers,” Outman said. “Today starts the rest of your life. Don’t let any opportunity slip away.”

“A whole lot is possible,” LaRocca noted. “If you believe in that, then you have taken your first step to living your best life with MS.”

Sally Mitchell was diagnosed with MS in 2001.

“It will be 17 years in September. I was called the morning of 9/11,” Mitchell told Healthline. “At the time I was watching the twin towers come down and the plane hitting the Pentagon. Figured the country was going to hell in a handbasket and there were more important things to worry about than my health. I am in a wheelchair the last seven years, but can use a walker at times. When people ask if it upsets me to use it, I tell them not really. I’ve got a seat wherever I go.”

“You just have to smile and laugh,” Mitchell adds. “Most people don’t like being around the sick. I learned a long time ago that if you smile at life and laugh about things you can’t control, there is nothing you really can’t accomplish. Besides, when you’ve got a grin on your face, [it] makes people wonder just what you’re up to.”

Caroline Craven is a patient expert living with MS. Her award-winning blog is GirlwithMS.com, and she can be found on Twitter.

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