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Prediction of psychological functioning one year after the predictive test for Huntington's disease and impact of the test result on reproductive decision making.
  1. M Decruyenaere,
  2. G Evers-Kiebooms,
  3. A Boogaerts,
  4. J J Cassiman,
  5. T Cloostermans,
  6. K Demyttenaere,
  7. R Dom,
  8. J P Fryns,
  9. H Van den Berghe
  1. Centre for Human Genetics, UZ Gasthuisberg, University of Leuven, Belgium.

    Abstract

    For people at risk for Huntington's disease, the anxiety and uncertainty about the future may be very burdensome and may be an obstacle to personal decision making about important life issues, for example, procreation. For some at risk persons, this situation is the reason for requesting predictive DNA testing. The aim of this paper is two-fold. First, we want to evaluate whether knowing one's carrier status reduces anxiety and uncertainty and whether it facilitates decision making about procreation. Second, we endeavour to identify pretest predictors of psychological adaptation one year after the predictive test (psychometric evaluation of general anxiety, depression level, and ego strength). The impact of the predictive test result was assessed in 53 subjects tested, using pre- and post-test psychometric measurement and self-report data of follow up interviews. Mean anxiety and depression levels were significantly decreased one year after a good test result; there was no significant change in the case of a bad test result. The mean personality profile, including ego strength, remained unchanged one year after the test. The study further shows that the test result had a definite impact on reproductive decision making. Stepwise multiple regression analyses were used to select the best predictors of the subject's post-test reactions. The results indicate that a careful evaluation of pretest ego strength, depression level, and coping strategies may be helpful in predicting post-test reactions, independently of the carrier status. Test result (carrier/ non-carrier), gender, and age did not significantly contribute to the prediction. About one third of the variance of post-test anxiety and depression level and more than half of the variance of ego strength was explained, implying that other psychological or social aspects should also be taken into account when predicting individual post-test reactions.

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