Dysphonia, Perceived Control, and Psychosocial Distress: A Qualitative Study



      The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine relationships between psychological factors, particularly perceived control, and voice symptoms in adults seeking treatment for a voice problem.


      Semistructured interviews of adult patients with a clinical diagnosis of muscle tension dysphonia were conducted and transcribed. Follow-up interviews were conducted as needed for further information or clarification. A multidisciplinary team analyzed interview content using inductive techniques. Common themes and subthemes were identified. A conceptual model was developed describing the association between voice symptoms, psychological factors, precipitants of ongoing voice symptoms, and perceived control.


      Thematic saturation was reached after 23 interviews. No participants reported a direct psychological cause for their voice problem, although half described significant life events preceding voice problem onset (eg, miscarriage and other health events, interpersonal conflicts, and family members' illnesses, injuries, and deaths). Participants described psychological influences on voice symptoms that led to rapid exacerbation of their voice symptoms. Participants described the helpfulness of speech therapy and sometimes also challenges of applying techniques in daily life. They also discussed personal coping strategies that included behavioral (eg, avoiding triggers and seeking social support) and psychological (eg, mind-body awareness and emotion regulation) components. Voice-related perceived control was associated with adaptive emotional and behavioral responses, which appeared to facilitate symptom improvement.


      In this qualitative pilot study, participant narratives suggested that psychological factors and emotions influence voice symptoms, facilitating development of a preliminary conceptual model of how adaptive and maladaptive responses develop and how they influence vocal function.

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