Background Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) poses physiological (1) and psychological demands on a person (2). RA is a autoimmune disease that can cause pain, disability, and suffering (1). The ability to notice bodily inner sensations and stimuli (body awareness, BA) is described in the literature in ways that could have either a positive or a negative impact on a person's health. The concept of BA is complex (3) and a thorough understanding is needed about what BA means from the patient's perspective. A phenomenological study (4) can complement purely medical and psychological perspectives with a holistic understanding.
Objectives The objective of this study was to gain a deeper understanding from the patient's perspective about the phenomenon of BA.
Methods Eighteen narrative interviews (the interviews lasting on average about 75 minutes) were conducted with patients aged 23-78 years, 2 males and 16 females with RA. Disease duration was from 6-34 years. The interviews were analyzed using the Empirical Phenomenological Psychological method (4).
Results General characteristics were found running through all the 18 interviews having to do with the fact that the disease had given rise to a higher degree of negatively toned BA. BA was a reactive process of searching or controlling after disease-related symptoms, or a reactive process that was triggered by emotions. BA was an active process of taking an inventory of abilities. Finally, all participants had the ability to shift focus from BA to the outside world. We found four typologies: “A reactive process on symptoms”, “A reactive process on emotional triggers”, “An active process of taking an inventory of abilities” and “A shifting from BA to the outside world”.
Conclusions BA can be both positively and negatively toned. Hence, health care workers must be able to understand when BA is positive and when it is negative from the patient's perspective. RA resulted in a higher degree of negatively toned BA. Therefore, the ability to shift attention from BA to activity in the outside world could sometimes be beneficial for the patient's health.
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Acknowledgements We would like to thank all the patients who participated in the individual interviews.
Disclosure of Interest None declared