Recognizing and Interpreting Symptoms – Seeking Treatment for Illness

     Psychology is useful also when discussing what prompts people to seek health services. In order for someone to seek health services, they must first recognize symptoms – any unusual sensations in or features in the body. For the most part people seek health services only when they believe that they have symptoms. We use schemas (our own theories) to recognize and interpret symptoms. Health psychologists have observed that peoples reactions to illnesses are usually different when they face an illness that they think is chronic (long-term and constant) versus acute (brief, sudden and not of a long duration). People are more likely to seek medical help if they think they know what their illness is and that it is treatable.

     Once people have recognized that they have symptoms – the next step that they must take is to decide whether or not they will seek medical attention. There are certain interactions that go on between Medical Practitioners and Patients.

Patient Styles: Researchers have found that patients are more satisfied with their treatment if they are able to participate in the treatment in order to meet their own preferences. These preferences include 1) a preference for information, 2) a preference for self-care, and 3) a preference for involvement in the health care. People vary in how much they need of each of these – information, a feeling of self-sufficiency and involvement with their health care provider.

Physician Styles: Physicians also have preferences for their involvement with their patients. There exist two different styles of physicians. A doctor-centred style involves a direct interaction where the physician focuses on the medical problem; uses questioning in order to get quick and specific responses form the patient and then formulates a plan of action which they relate to the patient. If the patient seems to go off on a different tangent than the focused questioning that the physician is giving them – the physician generally tends to ignore them. A patient-centred style is characterized by a relatively non-direct manner on the part of the doctor, and allows the patient time to answer and guide he conversation themselves. AS well, the patient is allowed to take part in the diagnosis and choice of treatment option. They were less likely to use medical jargon than doctor-centred styles, and it has been seen that the use of medical jargon can greatly impede communication.

Related Links

Health Psychology
Nutrition & Exercise
Preventing Illness
Personality & Health
Healing & Pain
Chronic Illness