Drawings of blood cells reveal people’s perception of their blood disorder: A pilot study


Context: Sickle cell disease (SCD) and thalassemia are rare but chronic blood disorders. Recent literature showed impaired quality of life (QOL) in people with these blood disorders. Assessing one of the determinants of QOL (i.e. illness perceptions) therefore, is an important next research area.
Objective: We aimed to explore illness perceptions of people with a blood disorder with drawings in addition to the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire (Brief IPQ). Drawings are a novel method to assess illness perceptions and the free-range answers drawings offer can add additional insight into how people perceive their illness.
Method: We conducted a cross-sectional study including 17 participants with a blood disorder. Participants’ illness perceptions were assessed by the Brief IPQ and drawings. Brief IPQ scores were compared with reference groups from the literature (i.e. people with asthma or lupus erythematosus).
Results: Participants with SCD or thalassemia perceived their blood disorder as being more chronic and reported more severe symptoms than people with either asthma or lupus erythematosus. In the drawings of these participants with a blood disorder, a greater number of blood cells drawn was negatively correlated with perceived personal control (P<0.05), indicating that a greater quantity in the drawing is associated with more negative or distressing beliefs.
Conclusion: Participants with a blood disorder perceive their disease as fairly threatening compared with people with other chronic illnesses. Drawings can add additional insight into how people perceive their illness by offering free-range answers.

PLOS ONE, 11(4), e0154348