OBJECTIVES: This paper reports on the cross sectional data from the longitudinal study examining the impact of genital herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection on quality of life. In particular the report sought to study the relation between recurrence of genital HSV and coping style, mood, personality, and quality of life, among other factors. SETTING AND SUBJECTS: 116 patients with a known history of genital herpes simplex infection attending the Department of Genitourinary Medicine at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. METHODS: Psychosocial factors (stress, anxiety, depression, health locus of control, personality, social support, coping skills, and quality of life) and the reported frequency of genital herpes episodes were measured using self administered questionnaires designed to examine the relation between psychosocial status and the frequency of genital HSV episodes. RESULTS: The number of recurrences reported by patients was significantly related to the style of coping skills used. Higher recurrences were less likely to use problem focused coping skills of planning and active coping, and the emotion focused coping skills of positive reinterpretation and growth. There was a significant difference in the number of patients who believed that psychological stress was related to the number of recurrences they experienced. This belief was related to neuroticism on the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire scale, and not to any of the other measures investigated. CONCLUSION: The findings suggest that it is the way individuals cope, and their personality characteristics rather than actual levels of psychological stress, that influence their belief in a link between recurrent genital HSV and stress. HSV may become the focus of existing concerns and be viewed as the physical manifestation of stress.
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