Even though both groups of people had the same disability, those who knew their condition was permanent adapted better to their situation over time, Ubel found.
He believes a couple of factors are probably at work here. First, people who hope for a cure that may never come will grow frustrated over time when there is no improvement in their situation.
"Happiness is not just a matter of circumstances, but also how circumstances compare to your experiences," Ubel said. "If you continue to hold out hope that things will get better, you will feel more frustrated."
Also, Ubel explained, people holding out hope will experience a great deal of "Weltschmerz," a German expression referring to the pain people feel when comparing how life is to how life should be.
"If I'm hoping for something better, then I continually compare my current lot in life to what it could be, and the contrast hurts," Ubel said. "People who have a temporary condition think, 'Why do I have to live with this? I want to be better.' People with a permanent condition think, 'Things aren't perfect, but these are the cards I've been dealt.'"
Berger, on the other hand, thinks people should view the findings from the colostomy patients' experiences "with a grain of salt," in part because the results stem from a small group of study participants.
But in addition, a range of life factors can affect how people deal with a chronic illness, including their psychological state before the illness, their social networks and support systems, and their sense of spirituality, Berger said, and none of those factors were considered in the study.
"A lot of it has to do with people's sense of: 'I have a place and worth in the world. I'm safe and taken care of. I have plans and expectations for my life. I have control over things i
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