Research Group Existential Distress in Severe Illness

  • Description
  • Description

    Our research focuses on psychological distress related to life-limiting medical illness. We investigate how patients and caregivers cope with an uncertain future, altered social roles and the fear of death and dying. We examine how psychological distress related to such existential loss and change can be alleviated.

    Supported by the German Cancer Aid’s Max-Eder-Junior Research Group Program, we investigate demoralization, death anxiety, and suicidal ideation in advanced cancer. We aim to better understand psychological adaptation to a foreshortened life expectancy and its facilitation through meaning-focused interventions. A further goal is to conceptualize forms of existential distress and their role in end-of-life conversations.

    • Existential distress in patients with advanced cancer and their caregivers (Max-Eder Junior Research Group Program, German Cancer Aid, 01/2020 – 12/2023)
    • Daily coping with a shortened life expectancy: Development of a daily diary measure for loss and restoration orientation in terminally ill patients with cancer (DFG Postdoctoral Scholarship, 05/2016 - 09/2017).
    • Existential distress among patients with cancer (FFM, 01/2015 - 12/2015).
    • Meaning-focused coping, personal meaning and psychological adaptation in the course of cancer (Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany, 06/2009 - 05/2012).

    • Philipp, R., Mehnert, A., Müller, V., Reck, M. & Vehling, S. (2020). Perceived relatedness, death acceptance, and demoralization in patients with cancer. Supportive Care in Cancer, 28, 2693–2700. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-019-05088-2
    • Philipp, R., Mehnert, A., Lo, C., Müller, V., Reck, M. & Vehling, S. (2019). Characterizing death acceptance among patients with cancer. Psycho‐Oncology, 28(4), 854–862. https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.5030
    • Dischinger, M. I., Lange, L., & Vehling, S. (2019). Loss of resources and demoralization in the chronically ill. General Hospital Psychiatry, 61, 10–15. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2019.08.002
    • Hartung, T. J., Fried, E. I., Mehnert, A., Hinz, A., & Vehling, S. (2019). Frequency and network analysis of depressive symptoms in patients with cancer compared to the general population. Journal of Affective Disorders, 256, 295–301. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.06.009
    • Vehling, S., Tian, Y., Malfitano, C., Shnall, J., Watt, S., Mehnert, A., Rydall, A., Zimmermann, C., Hales, S., Lo, C. & Rodin, G. (2019). Attachment security and existential distress among patients with advanced cancer. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 116, 93–99. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2018.11.018
    • Vehling, S., Gerstorf, D., Schulz-Kindermann, F., Oechsle, K., Philipp, R., Härter, M., Mehnert, A., Lo, C. (2018). The Daily Dynamics of Loss Orientation and Life Engagement in Advanced Cancer: a Pilot Study to Characterize Patterns of Adaptation at the End-Of-Life. European Journal of Cancer Care, 27(4), e12842. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecc.12842
    • Mah, K., Hales, S., Weerakkody, I., Liu, L., Fernandes, S., Rydall, A., Vehling, S., Zimmermann, C., Rodin, G. (2018). Measuring the quality of dying and death in advanced cancer: Item characteristics and factor structure of the Quality of Dying and Death Questionnaire. Palliative Medicine, doi.org/10.1177/0269216318819607
    • Vehling, S., & Kissane, D. W. (2018). Existential distress in cancer: Alleviating suffering from fundamental loss and change (Editorial for special issue). Psycho-Oncology. https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.4872
    • Bobevski, I., Kissane, D. W., Vehling, S., McKenzie, D. P., Glaesmer, H. & Mehnert, A. (2018). Latent class analysis differentiation of adjustment disorder and demoralization, more severe depressive and anxiety disorders, and somatic symptoms in patients with cancer. Psycho‐Oncology, 11(27), 2623–2630. https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.4761
    • Mehnert, A., Vehling, S. (2018). Psychoonkologische Unterstützung von Patienten und Angehörigen in der Terminalphase. Forum, 33 (1), 30-34.
    • Vehling, S., & Philipp, R. (2018). Existential distress and meaning-focused interventions in cancer survivorship. Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care, 12(1), 46–51.
    • Vehling, S., Malfitano, C., Shnall, J., Watt, S., Panday, T., Chiu, A., Rydall, A., Zimmermann, C., Hales, S., Rodin, G., Lo, C. (2017). A concept map of death-related anxieties in patients with advanced cancer. BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care 7, 427–434.
    • Phillip, R., Vehling, S., Scheffold, K., Härter, M., Mehnert, A., Lo, C. (2017). Attachment insecurity in advanced cancer patients: psychometric properties of the German version of the Brief Experiences in Close Relationships Scale (ECR-M16). Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 54(4), 555–562.
    • Vehling, S., Kissane, D.W., Lo, C., Glaesmer, H., Hartung, T.J., Rodin, G., Mehnert, A. (2017). The association of demoralization with mental disorders and suicidal ideation in patients with cancer. Cancer, 123(17), 3394–3401.
    • Grünke, B., Philipp, R., Vehling, S., Scheffold, K., Härter, M., Oechsle, K., Schulz-Kindermann, F., Mehnert, A., Lo, C. (2017). Measuring the psychosocial dimensions of quality of life in advanced cancer patients: Psychometrics of the German Quality of Life at the End of Life–Cancer–Psychosocial (QUAL-EC-P) Questionnaire. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. doi:10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2017.11.006
    • Philipp, R., Mehnert, A., Lehmann, C., Oechsle, K., Bokemeyer, C., Krull, A., & Vehling, S. (2016). Detrimental social interactions predict loss of dignity among patients with cancer. Supportive Care in Cancer, 24(6), 2751–2758.
    • Vehling, S., Kamphausen, A., Oechsle, K., Hroch, S., Bokemeyer, C., & Mehnert, A. (2015). The Preference to Discuss Expected Survival Is Associated with Loss of Meaning and Purpose in Terminally Ill Cancer Patients. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 18(11), 970–976.
    • Vehling, S., Mehnert, A. (2014) Symptom burden, loss of dignity, and demoralization in patients with cancer: a mediation model. Psycho-Oncology: 23(3), 283–290.
    • Scheffold, K., Mehnert, A., Müller, V., Reck, M., Koch, U., Härter, M., Vehling, S. (2014). Sources of meaning in cancer patients – influences on global meaning, anxiety and depression in a longitudinal study. European Journal of Cancer Care, Jul; 23(4):472-80.
    • Vehling, S., Lehmann, C., Oechsle, K., Bokemeyer, C., Krüll, A., Koch, U. & Mehnert, A. (2012). Is advanced cancer associated with demoralization and lower global meaning? The role of tumor stage and physical problems in explaining existential distress in cancer patients. Psycho-Oncology, 21 (1), 54–63.
    • Vehling, S., Lehmann, C., Oechsle, K., Bokemeyer, C., Krüll, A., Koch, U. & Mehnert, A. (2011). Global meaning and meaning-related life attitudes: Exploring their role in predicting depression, anxiety, and demoralization in cancer patients. Supportive Care in Cancer, 19 (4), 513–520.

    • Bockholt, M. (2018). Der Einfluss von subjektiven Krankheitstheorien auf Demoralisierung und psychische Belastung bei einer Krebserkrankung: eine längsschnittliche Studie. Masterarbeit, Psychologie.
    • Ahrenholz, M. (2018). Sinnsuche bei Patienten mit fortgeschrittener Krebserkrankung. Masterarbeit, Psychologie.
    • Schackow, M. (2015). Der Einfluss von posttraumatischem persönlichem Wachstum sowie dessen wahrgenommene Veränderung auf psychische Gesundheit und Belastung bei Krebspatienten. Masterarbeit, Psychologie.
    • Kokocinski, A. (2013). Positive und negative Affekte und Lebenssinn nach der Diagnose Krebs in einer Längsschnittuntersuchung. Diplomarbeit, Psychologie.