We all like to have a diagnosis, an explanation as to why we are unwell, when something is wrong with us. When many of my clients first arrive at the Practice for treatment they are frustrated by the fact that, up to that point, no one has been able to tell them why they have symptoms or what they ‘have’, and it is a desire to know that has prompted them to take the plunge with a therapy they may not be so familiar with.
A diagnosis can be good.
It makes it easier for us to talk about our symptoms. When we can say that we have ‘such and such’ our friends and family instantly have at least some idea of what is wrong and how we might be feeling. It can give us some level of credibility for the fact that we feel unwell, so avoiding the ‘it’s all in your head’ response which only adds to the frustration of unexplained ill health.
Modern medicine also likes a diagnosis.
It helps to put you in a box, give you a label, which can then be used to direct your treatment. If you have ‘this’ condition then you need to take ‘that’ medication – an easy solution!
But there can be downsides to a diagnosis.
In the same way that being able to give a name to your symptoms creates a picture for those around us as to how we may be feeling, it can also subconsciously inform us as to how we should be feeling, and this isn’t always helpful.
As soon as we hear certain names for conditions our own ideas, beliefs and expectations about that condition and what it means kicks in.
Based on what we’ve been told, for instance, our own past experiences, or how society reacts to various illnesses, we have a preconceived notion about how life is lived, what is and isn’t possible, or what can be expected in the future when living with certain symptoms. And it is these ‘stories’ that we tell ourselves that can impact how we deal with the condition we have been diagnosed with.
So, for example, having a condition that is deemed incurable may not enthuse us to take much action to resolve symptoms, after all – what’s the point? We can automatically start to restrict our lives as we feel that travel, exercise, taking part in activities, eating out and so on are now going to be difficult because of having this condition. And a diagnosis can certainly start to paint a glumly picture of the future as we envision worsening of current symptoms and symptoms yet to come!
It’s no wonder that our stress levels rise, the restrictions we place on ourselves further impact our well being, and anticipating future symptoms make them more likely to occur – the ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ effect. And of course all of this has a negative effect on our health – you can quite literally end up ill from simply thinking about your diagnosis!
So what to do?
Naturally a diagnosis is useful in many ways but the thing to do is to see it for what it is – a name given to a set of symptoms – and that’s all! The rest we make up, so to speak; thoughts, expectations and beliefs about what that diagnosis means that may or may not be true.
We all know people with conditions that appear to defy the odds and do things that they really shouldn’t! It’s not that they are in some way lucky (or reckless!), it’s just that they have chosen not to take their anxious, restrictive thinking about their condition too seriously, and have instead allowed that quiet voice of common sense to guide them (which, incidentally, may say that doing a certain something isn’t such a good idea but a decision based on quiet knowing not scary thoughts!).
So could this work for you?
Why not give it a go and see.