Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Illness, Pain, Anxiety and Depression

Unmotivated, Worthless…or Helpless?

Likely there are inappreciative and/or unmotivated patients, but many also present with _conditioned helplessness._

_Conditioned Helplessness_ can be at the core of many patient management problems. The patient is doted upon by a well-meaning spouse and becomes increasing dependent and decreasingly motivated.

The patient is told not to attempt to find employment and to _just wait,_ and this formerly hard working individual now spends days inactive, overeating, and failing to look at future employment options.

The patient_s _conditioned helplessness_ is exacerbated by receiving financial compensations for weeks, months_years in the absence of a work demands, work schedules and competing in the workforce.

The patient was not able to determine the schedule or order of care; this is done by his doctors, and he has become conditioned to be passive, dependent, indecisive_helpless.

_Conditioned Helplessness_ may be at the core of most cases of situational depression (depression arising from specific negative life events). In that case, the patient feels that it is futile to even try; so _why bother?_

While the concepts of lacking motivation and appreciation can be considered, first determine if the psychological climate of the patient_s post-injury life has created and maintained a state of _conditioned helplessness._ If conditioned helplessness has developed, the family and others involved in the rehabilitation process can be shown how their behavior is impeding the patient_s mobilization. It is a solvable problem once diagnosed.

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