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01-11-2011 | Uitgave 9/2011

Quality of Life Research 9/2011

Ego defense mechanisms in COPD: impact on health-related quality of life and dyspnoea severity

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 9/2011
Saulo C. Albuquerque, Eduardo R. Carvalho, Rebeka S. Lopes, Higor S. Marques, Danielle S. Macêdo, Eanes D. Pereira, Thomas N. Hyphantis, Andre F. Carvalho



To assess chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) patients’ defensive profile compared with healthy participants and to test whether specific ego defense mechanisms are associated with health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and self-reported dyspnoea severity.


In a cross-sectional study, we assessed, in 80 patients with COPD and 80 age- and gender-matched healthy participants, psychological distress (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) and defense mechanisms/styles (Defense Style Questionnaire). Patients had their HRQoL evaluated with the St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire and underwent a comprehensive clinical evaluation with determination of functional parameters and dyspnoea severity.


COPD patients presented higher scores in undoing, acting out, autistic fantasy, denial, and splitting defenses compared with healthy controls. Overall, patients showed a more immature (P = 0.001) and/or neurotic (P = 0.006) defensive profile. Higher scores of denial (P = 0.044), somatization (P = 0.009), and undoing (P = 0.032) defenses were associated with poorer HRQoL, independently of the anticipated significant associations of clinical and psychological distress variables with impaired HRQoL. Somatization was strongly independently associated with more severe self-reported dyspnoea.


COPD patients exhibit a relatively immature and neurotic defensive profile. Clinicians and consultation-liaison psychiatrists should consider the patients’ underlying personality structure, especially somatization tendencies, since it is independently associated with HRQoL and dyspnoea severity.

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