Development and Validation of Fear of Relapse Scale For Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis: Understanding Stressors in Patients

Ali Khatibi, Nahid Moradi, Naghmeh Rahbari, Tarannom Salehi, Mohsen Dehghani

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Chronic diseases are associated with patients' long-term stress and development of fear to things related to the source of stress. Better management of a patients' condition requires investigation of the underlying mechanisms that contribute to the process of development of chronic stress. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating chronic disease in most cases diagnosed after a relapse and characterized by the periodic occurrence of relapses in most patients. Due to the unpredictable course of the disease and relapses, patients with Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS) may deal with the stress of anticipation of relapse and its unpredictable consequences. The role of relapses and related stress on patients’ quality of life has not been previously investigated. This study is the first effort to develop a self-report measure of Fear of Relapse (FoR) in patients with RRMS. Thirty-one items were extracted from in-depth clinical interviews with 33 RRMS patients to develop the preliminary version of the scale. Subsequently, 168 RRMS patients completed the questionnaire, the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (IUS) and Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS). Fifty-one patients completed the scale one more time a month later. Factor analysis revealed three components, and five items failed to load on any of them. To test the FoR’s independence from similar measures, responses to 26 items were pooled once with DASS items and once with IUS items, and each time were subjected to confirmatory factor analysis (two-component solution). Despite significant correlations between FoR, DASS, and IUS Independent loadings of items belonging to FoR and DASS, and FoR and IUS revealed independence and unique contribution of FoR to the evaluation of patients. Cronbach's alpha for the 26-item version was 0.92. Test-retest reliability for total score was equal to 0.74. These findings provide preliminary evidence of the validity and reliability of the measure. This scale can help researchers and clinicians to have a more comprehensive understanding of patients’ experience with the uncertain nature of MS, which is necessary for future efforts to address this stressor by targeting the underlying mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
Article number226
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2020


  • Relapsing-Remitting multiple sclerosis
  • fear
  • psychometric properties
  • relapse
  • scale development


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