Could an Unfriendly Doctor Make You Sicker?

Nearly all of us can likely relate to the scenario of seeing a new doctor or health professional, and leaving the office feeling frustrated and misunderstood. A new study suggests that this occurrence not only may be annoying for a patient, it may even worsen their symptoms.

The new study, performed by researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Southampton in England, was small in scale, and surveyed the experiences of five women who suffered from chronic pain which spread throughout their bodies.

The women’s consultations with various healthcare professionals were recorded and analyzed, and they were interviewed on their impressions and emotions afterwards. Result showed that the women felt angry, stressed and hopeless after speaking with doctors that did not seem to understand, or communicate any insight.

These emotions, the researchers explain, may well worsen an existing illness, as the mind and the body are intrinsically connected.

According to the study’s lead author, Maddy Greville-Harris:

“Our work indicates that the effects of patients feeling that their doctor doesn’t believe or understand them can be damaging both emotionally and physiologically. This could lead to worsening of illness, known as the ‘nocebo response’. Patients bring certain beliefs and expectations to their health care professional, which are moulded by the culture they live in, and their previous experiences. Their expectations will undoubtedly affect the outcome, but improving communication in consultations could make a big difference to patient care.”

The study’s senior investigator, Paul Dieppe, added:

doctor“This study is really about humanity in healthcare. We have found that patients perceive a lack of empathy and understanding, even when the doctor is trying to be comforting… We now need to see more research in this area, and for that to feed into training doctors to be more effective communicators for every patient they see.”

This study really brings to light how much a healthcare professional’s words can affect a patient. For the professional, like Dieppe stated, it means they must step up their communication and empathy skills. For patients, however, we need to be selective when choosing someone to take care of our all-important health. How a doctor makes us feel is important, along with their qualifications.

Ask yourself: Does your doctor make you feel calm, safe and in good hands? Do you feel like you can talk to your doctor about anything without fearing judgement or scorn? Does your doctor explain things clearly to you and readily answer your questions? Does the doctor seem insightful about your particular condition or state of health?

If not, it may be time to find a new doctor.

-The Alternative Daily


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