The presence or absence of clearly defined symptoms and underlying pathophysiology may be a crucial variable related to variability in well-being and stigmatization in individuals with chronic pain (ICPs). In the context of pain, absence of clearly defined symptoms and pathophysiology deviates from the widely endorsed biomedical model and as such, may lead to stigmatization, which in turn could be related to ICPs’ well-being.
The present study compared physical, psychological, social well-being, and perceived stigmatization in individuals with clearly defined symptoms and underlying pathophysiology (rheumatoid arthritis, RA) and individuals with less well understood symptoms and pathophysiology (fibromyalgia, FM) using daily diaries. Furthermore, the association between daily perceived stigmatization and daily well-being was examined.
Materials and Methods:
Seventy-nine participants with FM, 86 participants with RA, and 33 participants with both diagnoses completed a diary for 14 consecutive days.
Compared to individuals with RA, individuals with FM and individuals with both diagnoses reported worse daily well-being. After controlling for age, pain duration, and daily pain, differences between FM and RA remained significant for social well-being and completion of plans. Differences between RA and the dual diagnosis group remained significant for completion of plans, negative affect, and isolation. Furthermore, results suggested more stigmatization in individuals with FM than in individuals with RA. Individuals with both diagnoses reported equal stigmatization as individuals with FM, but more stigmatization than individuals with RA. Finally, increased levels of perceived stigma were associated with lower well-being.
Findings highlight that the absence of clearly defined symptoms and pathophysiology could be contributing to greater feelings of stigmatization, which may be detrimental for ICPs’ well-being.