Specificity in social support: perceptions of helpful and unhelpful provider behaviors among irritable bowel syndrome, headache, and cancer patients

Health Psychol. 1994 Sep;13(5):432-9. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.13.5.432.


Perceived social support was assessed among 53 patients suffering from non-life-threatening chronic illnesses (i.e., irritable bowel syndrome or recurrent headache). Subjects recalled predominantly helpful support interactions and reported the three major types of social support as equally helpful. In addition, irritable bowel syndrome patients, who experience embarrassing physical symptoms, reported fewer instances of tangible assistance than chronic headache patients. Comparisons to cancer patients studied by Dakof and Taylor (1990) revealed differences in perceived social support as a function of diagnosis. These results offer insight into the needs of patients with noncatastrophic illnesses and suggest that the challenges and tasks confronting these individuals are unique from those encountered by patients with catastrophic diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colonic Diseases, Functional / psychology*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Female
  • Headache / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Personality Assessment
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Sick Role*
  • Social Support*