Stigma, both enacted and internalized, is part of the illness experience of many chronic conditions / diseases and has been found to increase psychological distress, lower self-esteem, and impact social engagement lowering quality of life (QOL). Stigma among pediatric patients is of particular concern due to its potential impact on identity formation. Using patient data from the online FD/MAS Alliance Patient Registry (FDMASAPR), this study seeks to 1) determine levels of enacted and self-stigma in a pediatric population of fibrous dysplasia (FD) / McCune Albright syndrome (MAS) patients and 2) to explore the relationship between stigma and anxiety and depression.
This is a cross sectional analysis of deidentified self-report data from 18 pediatric patients. Key analytic variables include the Neuro-QOL stigma short form, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), diagnostic category and craniofacial involvement, and select demographics. Sample means and score distributions are examined. Bivariate relationships between stigma, anxiety and depression and patient’s personal and medical characteristics are established through analysis of variance and correlation.
Composite stigma levels for FD/MAS pediatric patients were comparable to those of children with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and muscular dystrophy. Self-stigma was more frequently reported than enacted/felt stigma, but few patients indicated complete freedom from either type of stigma. Diagnosis was significantly related to self-stigma. Significant bivariate relationships were found between depression and enacted/felt and self-stigma and between anxiety and self-stigma.
This study establishes the illness experience of pediatric patients with FD / MAS is impacted by stigma and suggests they should be regularly screened for stigma and psychological distress. It supports the integration of clinical psychologists/ therapists in regular patient care, referral of families to advocacy organizations, and indicates that rare disease patient registries can be a useful tool in efforts to improve the QOL of patients.