Exploring the Experience of Breathlessness with the Common-Sense Model of Self-Regulation (CSM)

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Healthcare (Switzerland)


Chronic breathlessness is a multidimensional, unpleasant symptom common to many health conditions. The Common-Sense Model of Self-Regulation (CSM) was developed to help understand how individuals make sense of their illness. This model has been underused in the study of breathlessness, especially in considering how information sources are integrated within an individual’s cognitive and emotional representations of breathlessness. This descriptive qualitative study explored breathlessness beliefs, expectations, and language preferences of people experiencing chronic breathlessness using the CSM. Twenty-one community-dwelling individuals living with varying levels of breathlessness-related impairment were purposively recruited. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with questions reflecting components of the CSM. Interview transcripts were synthesized using deductive and inductive content analysis. Nineteen analytical categories emerged describing a range of cognitive and emotional breathlessness representations. Representations were developed through participants’ personal experience and information from external sources including health professionals and the internet. Specific words and phrases about breathlessness with helpful or nonhelpful connotations were identified as contributors to breathlessness representations. The CSM aligns with current multidimensional models of breathlessness and provides health professionals with a robust theoretical framework for exploring breathlessness beliefs and expectations.

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