Date of Award

12-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Embargo Date

2-27-2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Marriage and Family Therapy

Advisor(s)

Linda Stone Fish

Keywords

Fibromyalgia syndrome, FMS, Couple satisfaction, Couple Relationship

Subject Categories

Counseling Psychology

Abstract

The fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is the most frequent cause of chronic, widespread pain in North America and Europe. It is a non-inflammatory musculoskeletal syndrome predominantly found in the female middle-aged population with a ratio men/women of ¼. Considered for decades an `imaginary' or at best a psychosomatic disease, fibromyalgia gained its status as a diagnosable entity in the early 90s giving a `voice' to the invisible suffering of people, the majority of them being women afflicted by it. While in general the research on psychosocial aspects of fibromyalgia is scarce, couple and family aspects are even less studied than individual aspects. In an attempt to shed more light on the quality of couple relationship of people suffering from FMS, this study looked at the mediation effect of alexithymia and attachment style on the relationship between the impact of fibromyalgia and couple satisfaction. This is a quantitative study that employed a Structural Equation Modeling statistical analysis. The findings from this study show that neither alexithymia nor a specific attachment style is a mediator of the relationship between fibromyalgia impact and couple satisfaction. The study also shows that fibromyalgia symptoms do not have a statistically significant impact on couple adjustment. A combination of the presence of alexithymia traits and an avoidant attachment style seems to have the most powerful impact on couple satisfaction in the population suffering from fibromyalgia. Several clinical implications are highlighted as a result of this study: couple therapists working with clients with fibromyalgia should familiarize themselves with the symptoms of this syndrome and how they affect the everyday life of the partners, as well as the impact of the alexithymia traits and an insecure attachment style on the couple relationship in this population. Due to its emphasis on emotional experiences and its psychoeducational aspects in regards to processing feelings, Emotionally-Focused Therapy is proposed to be very well suited in working with fibromyalgia sufferers and their partners, especially those with alexithymia features and insecure attachment styles.

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