Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Illness, Pain, Anxiety and Depression


needfulBeing needful and being dependent are not the same thing. After meeting the basic needs of life, the next concern is whether life will be, in some form, unique or special. The idea of being commonplace and ignorable is a painful reality for most people. The thought that their lives will be mundane and forgettable becomes intolerable.

This may lead some to create great art, literature, architecture, or scientific advances for which they will be recognized and remembered. It drives politicians. It drives parents to push their children for recognition that the parents never received, or which the parents fear will cease for the family if not promoted over and again.

When a person is injured or ill, and when this problem does not resolve with self-care, the person becomes a patient and needful. This can be a very empty role in which waiting in the emergency department, the waiting room, the clinic or on a bench outside a lab, the patient is summarily ignored or minimized. Even if seen somewhat often, the patient is not remembered, and forced to accept that s/he is not very special at all.

Barney told kids “everyone is special in his and her own way.” That, for the most part, is untrue. Each person is unique…DNA, fingerprint, retinal scan…but special? Individuals do not respond to people as though they are, in any way, special. Try to make a police offer accept that you are drinking and driving for some very special reasons. Of course, you ran that light, and exceeded the speed of light down a highway because you are special.

Then sit in a waiting room or the ER and tell the front desk that you are special. Tell the occupational medicine center that your needs and care are special. Tell anyone that your pain is special and unlike that of the pain of others. Rarely will any of this result in someone suddenly noticing how special you truly are and how much you needful for special treatment.

Being a patient is most often a very lonely experience. Someone ties a steak bone around your neck just to get your dog to play with you.

The reality is that the pain and suffering from illness and injury intensifies the need to be seen, and be treated, as someone special. The concept of suffering and being ignored is, in fact, intolerable.

Perhaps the most important statement to a patient is “I know that this is a scary and lonely experience. We have not forgotten you.”



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