Research Topic

Psychosocial Adjustment to Illness: Positive Adaptation and the Role of Body Image

About this Research Topic

Adjustment to illness, especially to chronic illness, has been an important topic of research due to the economic and social burden of disease. Health Psychology has sought to identify psychosocial and biobehavioral factors that can determine recovery and survivorship, in order to improve outcomes and reduce physical and psychological morbidity. A variety of psychosocial factors have been found to contribute positively to these outcomes, namely, meaning in life, social support and optimism, whereas negative factors such as depression, anxiety and alexithymia, have been related to poor outcomes.

In addition, illness may cause significant adverse changes in the body, some are visible, while others are not apparent. As a result of both the illness itself and its treatment, physical sequalae (e.g., scarring, hair loss, disfigurement, sensory changes) and functional impairment can emerge, affecting the way people think about and experience their bodies.

The way body image is conceptualized can change during the illness process, following the changes in body appearance, functionality, and physical integrity. Since body image plays an important role in self-esteem, identity, affect, and social life, significant changes in this dimension can have a potential impact on psychological well-being. However, research on illness-related changes in body image and the effects they may have on individuals with illness is barely developed. There is also a need to further our understanding of how those changes may interact with clinical or other psychosocial factors. A bidirectional influence is also plausible, whereby body image influences adaptation processes to illness due to its association with quality of life or depression. Therefore, there is a need to clarify the role of body image in psychosocial adjustment to illness. The current literature is scarce and includes a number of limitations; For example, most studies have focused on women; only a small number of illnesses have been addressed; and, the assessment of body image has focused particularly on body dissatisfaction, thus limiting a broader exploration of the body image concept.

This Research Topic aims to enhance our knowledge in the field of illness adjustment, positive adaptation and body image by focusing on two aspects:

1) The impact of chronic illness on body image.
2) The role of body image in positive psychosocial adaptation to illness.

In the first sub-topic, we welcome case-control, prospective, and review studies on adjustment to a wide range of chronic illnesses and conditions (e.g., cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, obesity).
In the second sub-topic, we encourage article submissions of cross-sectional and experimental studies exploring body image relations to several indicators of positive adaptation to illness, including subjective/personal factors (e.g., meaning in life, optimism, spirituality, hope, social support, subjective well-being, happiness or quality of life) as well as indicators of poor illness adjustment such as the presence of psychological distress (e.g. depression, anxiety).


Keywords: Psychosocial adjustment, illness, body image, quality of life, health


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Adjustment to illness, especially to chronic illness, has been an important topic of research due to the economic and social burden of disease. Health Psychology has sought to identify psychosocial and biobehavioral factors that can determine recovery and survivorship, in order to improve outcomes and reduce physical and psychological morbidity. A variety of psychosocial factors have been found to contribute positively to these outcomes, namely, meaning in life, social support and optimism, whereas negative factors such as depression, anxiety and alexithymia, have been related to poor outcomes.

In addition, illness may cause significant adverse changes in the body, some are visible, while others are not apparent. As a result of both the illness itself and its treatment, physical sequalae (e.g., scarring, hair loss, disfigurement, sensory changes) and functional impairment can emerge, affecting the way people think about and experience their bodies.

The way body image is conceptualized can change during the illness process, following the changes in body appearance, functionality, and physical integrity. Since body image plays an important role in self-esteem, identity, affect, and social life, significant changes in this dimension can have a potential impact on psychological well-being. However, research on illness-related changes in body image and the effects they may have on individuals with illness is barely developed. There is also a need to further our understanding of how those changes may interact with clinical or other psychosocial factors. A bidirectional influence is also plausible, whereby body image influences adaptation processes to illness due to its association with quality of life or depression. Therefore, there is a need to clarify the role of body image in psychosocial adjustment to illness. The current literature is scarce and includes a number of limitations; For example, most studies have focused on women; only a small number of illnesses have been addressed; and, the assessment of body image has focused particularly on body dissatisfaction, thus limiting a broader exploration of the body image concept.

This Research Topic aims to enhance our knowledge in the field of illness adjustment, positive adaptation and body image by focusing on two aspects:

1) The impact of chronic illness on body image.
2) The role of body image in positive psychosocial adaptation to illness.

In the first sub-topic, we welcome case-control, prospective, and review studies on adjustment to a wide range of chronic illnesses and conditions (e.g., cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, obesity).
In the second sub-topic, we encourage article submissions of cross-sectional and experimental studies exploring body image relations to several indicators of positive adaptation to illness, including subjective/personal factors (e.g., meaning in life, optimism, spirituality, hope, social support, subjective well-being, happiness or quality of life) as well as indicators of poor illness adjustment such as the presence of psychological distress (e.g. depression, anxiety).


Keywords: Psychosocial adjustment, illness, body image, quality of life, health


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 September 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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