Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

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Anxiety about one’s own health is a common phenomenon, which affects everyone. Such anxiety drives us to seek medical assistance when we are concerned. Medical assistance in turn enables early detection and therefore early treatment of disease and illness or reassurance that our fear and concerns are unwarranted and that everything is well. When reassured that all is well, most people’s fears will reduce and they will pay decreased attention to their complaint/symptom and resume normal day-to-day functioning.

However, what happens if the reassurance does not work? What if the test was not completed correctly? What if the tests are not sensitive enough? What if the doctor doesn’t even commission the tests, how can he be so sure? Such thoughts can develop in many people and should the ‘triggering problem/symptom’ continue we will most likely return to our doctor and seek clarification, further reassurance or appropriate tests. Such cycles can continue until one of the following occurs: the triggering problem/symptom dissipates by itself; we are happy with the doctor’s competence and the reassurance provided; a condition is found, diagnosis made and treatment begins; or we undergo a full range of tests which rule out all possible causes.

For some people their fears persist, they repeatedly seek medical assessment from health professionals. Additionally, their feared illness may change, so that on one occasion they fear they have cancer, and on another occasion they fear having a stroke. At what point someone’s concerns are labelled as ‘psychological’ is a matter of opinion and conjecture and is a far cry from being an ‘exact science’. However, such health anxiety can be extremely disabling for the sufferer but also can create excessive demands on medical services.

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