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A Systematic Review of the Literature Exploring Illness Perceptions in Mental Health Utilising the Self-Regulation Model

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Psychologists have utilised a range of social cognition models to understand variation in physical health and illness-related behaviours. The most widely studied model of illness perceptions has been the Self-Regulation Model (SRM, Leventhal, Nerenz, & Steele, 1984). The illness perceptions questionnaire (IPQ) and its revised version (IPQ-R) have been utilised to explore illness beliefs in physical health. This review examined 13 quantitative studies, which used the IPQ and IPQ-R in mental health in their exploration of illness perceptions in psychosis, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, depression and adolescents experiencing mood disorders. Across these studies the SRM illness dimensions were largely supported. Mental illnesses were commonly viewed as cyclical and chronic, with serious negative consequences. Perceptions regarding chronicity, controllability and negative consequences were associated with coping and help seeking, while engagement with services and help seeking were also related to illness coherence beliefs. Treatment adherence was linked to beliefs that treatment could control one’s illness. Whilst a major limitation of the reviewed studies was the use of cross-sectional designs, overall the applicability of the SRM to mental health was supported. The IPQ and IPQ-R were shown to be valuable measures of illness perceptions in mental health, offering implications for clinical practice.

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Correspondence to Anja Wittkowski.

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Baines, T., Wittkowski, A. A Systematic Review of the Literature Exploring Illness Perceptions in Mental Health Utilising the Self-Regulation Model. J Clin Psychol Med Settings 20, 263–274 (2013).

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