Rheumatoid Arthritis Presents Unique Psychological Burdens for Male Patients

MARCH 02, 2017
Ryan Black
Support was far more likely to come from physicians, female partners, and family members than it was from male peers: “They’re not understanding at all, no, not unless they’ve got something wrong with them,” said one. Still, others had the sense that even many health care professionals lacked sympathy for their RA pain: “They know that men don’t go [to the doctor] unless they’ve really got to, and even then they’ll still fob you off.”
While many of the slang terms won’t translate globally—the report is dotted with “fob,” “schtum,” “bloke”, and even a “guvnor”—the ongoing work of the researchers is to find out to what extent these experiences are shared outside of the focus groups, and if they indicate that men with RA are underserved by existing management models. The overall effect of the patients’ self-perception and their response from others was a sort of grin-and-bear-it approach.
The report makes some recommendations based on its findings, namely in the development of support packages. While traditional thinking on gender created reticence among the respondents (discussion was seen as “something women do”), there seemed to be leeway in approaching the subject to extract useful information that could improve treatment. “These male patients reported being willing to talk to their rheumatology team if directly asked about their emotional well-being, which may be because they value emotional support, but feel uncomfortable acknowledging this,” the authors wrote, emphasizing the need to ask patients direct questions pertaining to the psychological and emotional impact of the disease, rather than open-ended questions that can be dodged. After saying that his rheumatologist had never discussed support options with him, one patient acknowledged that “on the other hand I didn’t tell them I was depressed either.”
The study, entitled ”“You Obviously Just Have to Put on a Brave Face”: A Qualitative Study of the Experiences and Coping Styles of Men With Rheumatoid Arthritis,” appears in the March issue of the American College of Rheumatology’s journal Arthritis Care and Research. The team behind it is currently conducting a survey study “which will enable an informed judgement of whether there is a clinical need to provide services tailored toward the potentially different needs of men.”

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