APF Scholarship Goes to Study of Stigma and Depression in MS

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by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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MS and depression

Ms. Margaret Cadden, a Pennsylvania State University doctoral student in Clinical Psychology, has been selected by the American Psychological Foundation (APF) as the recipient of the 2015 APF Scott and Paul Pearsall Scholarship prize of $10,000.

The scholarship will be used to research depression, stigma, and disease progression in individuals with varying degrees of physical disability related to multiple sclerosis (MS). Her study, titled “Judgment Hurts: The Physical and Psychological Consequences of Experiencing Stigma in MS,” will investigate whether stigma directly impacts disease progression over one year, and whether depression plays a role in the course of MS.

“I am beyond thrilled to have received this award,” Cadden said in a recent Penn State news release. “I am excited to use the funds to pursue research examining the psychologically and physically painful effects of experiencing stigma. I hope for this work to be used as further ammunition in the social campaign against stigma. I am also incredibly grateful for my mentors here at Penn State, who helped me craft my ideas and supported me through the application process.”

Cadden is involved in various research projects investigating cognitive and emotional functioning in patients with MS under supervision of her adviser, Dr. Peter Arnett. She is mainly interested in the role emotion (particularly depression) and cognition play in neurological syndromes.

The APF has, since 1953, provided financial support for innovative research, scholarships, and projects for students and early career psychologists working to make a difference in people’s lives. The Scott and Paul Pearsall Scholarship provides financial support to talented students for research aimed at improving the public’s understanding of psychological pain and stigma in people with physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy and MS.

MS is most commonly thought of as a physically disabling, often progressive disease. Visual loss, weakness, spasticity, bladder dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, and fatigue are among the primary symptoms considered in its management. There is, however, an increasing awareness of the role that psychiatric symptoms such as depression play in the disease course. Patients with MS often experience stigma due to a general lack of understanding of the disease and its symptoms.

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