Research has identified that living with the chronic inflammatory disease endometriosis adversely impacts social functioning and interpersonal relationships, specifically, feelings of loneliness and a lack of perceived social support. Commonly experienced body image disturbance (BID), combined with the anticipation of endometriosis-related stigma from others, may result in further social withdrawal. This study aimed to quantitatively investigate the association between BID and social functioning (loneliness and diminished perceived social support), and the potential moderating effect of anticipated stigma on these associations.
Participants (N = 212) with a self-reported endometriosis diagnosis completed an online questionnaire measuring social and emotional loneliness, perceived social support, BID, anticipated stigma and demographic and medical characteristics.
Mean scores indicated high levels of BID, emotional loneliness and diminished perceived social support. Bootstrapped multivariable regression analyses indicated that BID was significantly associated with greater emotional loneliness and lower perceived social support. BID was also associated bivariately with greater social loneliness. Anticipated stigma from healthcare workers moderated the association of BID with perceived social support, such that poorer perceived support was reported when anticipated stigma was high, despite the presence of minimal BID.
These findings highlight the psychological challenges of living with endometriosis in terms of highly prevalent BID, in the context of feeling lonely and poorly supported. The further negative impact of anticipated stigma suggests that psychosocial interventions may benefit from additionally targeting these perceptions of stigma.