Perceived Cognitive Deficits and Depressive Symptoms in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis: Perceived Stress and Sleep Quality as Mediators

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Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disorder marked by inflammation of the central nervous system, is associated with a myriad of symptoms. Individuals with MS are more likely to experience depressive symptoms, perhaps due to perceived cognitive impairments. Thus, we aimed to explore perceived stress and sleep deficits as potential mediators of the association between perceived cognitive deficits and depressive symptoms. We recruited a sample of 77 MS participants from an outpatient, university-based MS clinic in the United States. Participants ranged in age between 30 and 75 years old (M = 51.12; SD = 9.6), with more females than males (83% female; n = 64). Participants completed the Perceived Deficits Questionnaire, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, the Perceived Stress Scale, and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale – Revised. Correlation analyses and mediation analyses were conducted with bootstrapping technique. Statistical analyses revealed that higher levels of perceived cognitive deficits were associated with lower quality of sleep, more perceived stress, and higher levels of depressive symptoms. Additionally, both perceived stress and sleep quality served as a significant mediator in the perceived cognitive impairments and depressive symptoms linkage. Our novel findings demonstrate the importance of underlying mechanisms (e.g., sleep quality and perceived stress) in the conceptualization of MS. Perceived stress and sleep quality are potentially modifiable factors, perhaps serving as a target for future treatment, to buffer risk of MS patients developing depression.