Symptoms Experience: A Concept Analysis

Terri S. Armstrong

ONF 2003, 30(4), 601-606. DOI: 10.1188/03.ONF.601-606

Purpose/Objectives: To provide a clearly constructed definition of the concept of symptoms experience.

Data Sources: Articles and book chapters.

Data Synthesis: Symptoms experience has not been explored previously. Several approaches to the concept of symptoms have been addressed, including symptom occurrence, symptom distress, and unpleasant symptoms. Limitations of these approaches may include the lack of focus on symptoms as occurring concurrently or in clusters or the multiplicative nature of symptoms. In addition, situational and existential meaning often is not explored.

Conclusions: Symptoms experience is the perception of the frequency, intensity, distress, and meaning of symptoms as they are produced and expressed. Symptoms are multiplicative in nature and may act as catalysts for the occurrence of other symptoms. Antecedents to the symptoms experience include demographic, disease, and individual factors. Consequences include the impact on mood state, psychological status, functional status, quality of life, disease progression, and survival.

Implications for Nursing: Evaluation of symptoms in patients with cancer should include a meaning-centered approach, in which symptoms are evaluated not only for occurrence characteristics and perceived distress but also for the meaning of the symptoms experience to individuals.

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