Your Health Condition 1

Why It Is Crucial Not To Buy Into Becoming Your Health Label 

One of the things I always talk about with my patients who have a chronic disease state, or women’s health issue, or any health issue, is that it is crucial not to buy into becoming your health label.

The more we focus on a disease state, the harder it is to manage, and the worse all our symptoms become. Then the vicious cycle, and merry go round begins and never seems to end. The more we feed something, the bigger it grows.

There are now lots of research to back this up and why when treating disease states, pain, and other associated symptoms there needs a multimodality approach. You cannot separate the physical and mental aspects of a disease, and the impact that the mind can also have on a disease and its symptoms.

As per usual, when we talk about a difficult subject, which will probably trigger some, I always ask everyone to try and take the personal out of things. This subject is being discussed with the intent to help people, because it is a very important topic that needs to be talked about. This is seen very often in practice, and is often hindering people in them getting better, so it needs to be discussed.

The difference between Research and a Google Search

When someone is first diagnosed with a disease state, it is often understandable that someone would want to try and find a way to help their health issue. This is actually something I encourage all my patients to do. Part of what I do is educating patients how they can best manage their disease and also the importance and difference between good research, compared to someone’s google search.

Research, and a google search, are two totally different things and many people get this confused. I have talked about this often in many of my articles, and also explained why Dr Google is not a good place to get your health information from. Despite that, any free to the public research papers that may be out there are many years old, and now out of date. The other things is, unless you have done study in how to quantify good research, you could be taking some very bad research data and believing it to be true, when in fact it is complete rubbish. Research data analysis and terminology takes years to understand fully, and no google search is going to help anyone learn that.

That does not mean that one should not be educated and stop trying to find out about their disease state. But, there is a point when someone is constantly looking for answers, or then becomes obsessed with their disease and symptoms, that this can become very unhealthy. It can also lead to exacerbation of symptoms, increased mental health issues, lack of quality treatments and management, and over analysing even the smallest of symptoms.

Finding the right support

I know I am a big advocate of people getting support, but often we see people getting their health advice from the wrong areas, such as social media groups, who say they are support groups. The hard thing with many of this groups is that they are often run by untrained people, have no qualified health professionals to give proper advice, and many times they are focussed on the negative aspects of a health issue. This then leads to more negative thoughts, and can actually be a source of toxicity and holding you back from real professional help. It is a catch 22 situation and why people need to be careful which groups they join.

This is why people should only join professional support groups facilitated and mediated by health professionals, and people trained in a certain health issues. These groups are also moderated properly, and are kept to factual discussion and centred around positive solutions, rather than negative talk that we see in a great deal of groups.

Focussing on health issue can intensify symptoms

There is so much credible research about how focussing on our symptoms can have the negative consequence of increasing the intensity of the symptoms and also pain. This, in turn, can create more worry about the symptoms, which brings on more anxiety sensations, and increases our desire to focus on our symptoms even more. This is why it is important to work with health professionals to explore ways that you can start to decrease the amount of time spent focussed on health symptoms and worries, reduce reliance on addictive medications, and thus start to break this vicious cycle.

People who experience health anxiety will often find themselves scanning their bodies for signs of ill health and then worrying about bodily sensations. This is not to take away from people actually having very real symptoms from their disease state and health issues. To a certain extent, it is normal to be aware of bodily sensations and changes, and to pay some attention to potential health problems.

Identifying things that can trigger flares

People will have flares of symptoms from time to time, and often there can be no reason for the flare. But in practice, healthcare professionals are trained to ask the right questions and will identify things that cause flares too. Most times, a flare is causes by blowouts in diet, increased alcohol intake (binges), increased stress and anxiety, lack of quality sleep, dehydration, and over doing it. People can also get flare from withdrawal and rebound effects of some medications too. Stress and anxiety are some of the biggest triggers for people and why it is some important to look at the mental and emotion aspects of healthcare management too.

There may be many things that cause a flare and it is important to get help to identify what these are, and to help avoid these triggers in the future.

Retraining your thoughts to be more positive

If you are spending too much time focussing on your symptoms, or you find it difficult to stop thinking about these symptoms, you may need to start working on retraining your thoughts and attentions onto more proactive and positive things. This is where seeing a psychologist as well can help with reduction of symptoms and pain management too.

Unfortunately when we focus on our disease state, or health issue and its associated symptoms, this can actually amplify the intensity of the symptoms, and thus bring on more worry and anxiety symptoms. It can also amplify pain levels and decrease someone’s ability to cope. Chronic pain clearly affects the body, but it also affects emotions, relationships, and the mind. It can cause anxiety and depression, which in turn, can make pain worse. It is that vicious cycle again that need to be broken.

Coping skills to help you have a normal life

When we are focussed on our symptoms, it can take our attention away from everyday activities and even from important tasks. It can also affect their job and also their intimate relationships. It also takes away from actually seeking proper help and management of a disease state, or health issue, from a qualified health professional.

For example, have you ever found it hard to focus on a household chore, or focus on your work, because your attention kept wandering back to a particular area of your body, back to health worries, or back to a particular symptom?

Learning to retrain your attention is therefore an important step in overcoming your health anxiety. It will not only reduce the amount you focus on your symptoms and your disease, but it will also free up your attention to focus on other activities and experiences. It is about helping you have the coping skills you need to have a normal and productive life, rather than constantly focussing on your health issue, and then creating the vicious cycles around that.

Changing behaviours to help manage your health

Once you work with healthcare professionals to help you with coping skills, to assist you in not focussing on symptoms, and your health issue, you will then be in a better position to decide if you would like to change that behaviour. You are also in a better position to be able to deal with flares if they happen and also look at things that can help you better manage your health issue and symptoms. It will also help you with the constant reliance on medications, and painkillers etc, and help you to use them when you really need to.

Never try to manage your health issue on your own

This is why it is so important not to try and manage a health issue on your own, and seek the help of professionals who can help you with multimodality approaches to health management, and look at all the aspects of a health issue. This includes the physical and emotional aspects too.

You are not your disease and not your health label

You are not your disease and your disease does not define who you are. This is why it is so important not to buy into the label of your particular health issue. You need to not let your health issue control you and with the proper help, you can live a normal life, like so many others who have sort the right help already do. You can get your life back with the right help and right health management. Once you do the work, and experience the benefits, you will know it can be done and how much it can change your way of life.

Final Word

If you need help with a women’s health issue, or a particular health issue, you can always contact my friendly staff about how I may be able to assist you. There are also practitioners that are part of The Experts Program, whom we can refer you to and work in with as well.

Regards

Andrew Orr

No Stone Left Unturned

Master of Women’s Health Medicine

The Experts Program

References

  1. Bushnell MC, Ceko M, Low LA. Cognitive and emotional control of pain and its disruption in chronic pain. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2013;14:502–11.[PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  2. Blyth FM, Macfarlane GJ, Nicholas MK. The contribution of psychosocial factors to the development of chronic pain: the key to better outcomes for patients? Pain. 2007;129:8–11. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  3. Aschbacher K, Adam EK, Crofford LJ, et al. Linking disease symptoms and subtypes with personalized systems-based phenotypes: a proof of concept study. Brain Behavior Immunity. 2012;26:1047–56. [PMC free article][PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  4. Breivik H, Collett B, Ventafridda V, Cohen R, Gallacher D. Survey of chronic pain in Europe: prevalence, impact on daily life, and treatment. Eur J Pain. 2006;10(4):287–333. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  5. Scott KM, Bruffaerts R, Tsang A, et al. Depression-anxiety relationships with chronic physical conditions: results from the World Mental Health Surveys. J Affect Disord. 2007;103(1–3):113–120. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  6. Closs SJ, Staples V, Reid I, Bennett MI, Briggs M. The impact of neuropathic pain on relationships. J Adv Nurs. 2009;65(2):402–411. [PubMed
photo of a woman thinking 941555

What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Researching Your Health Condition

One of the things I always hear from my patients is that they did all this extensive research, on why they chose a particular place, particular person, or particular treatment modality. But then I then hear that the last place they went to, or person they saw, or last treatment modality that they did didn’t end up helping them much.

So, if that is the case, what went wrong with all their so called research?

Now, before I start on this article, please know that I always promote that people should be educated on their particular health issue and always try to be fully informed. But, the problem these days, as I have mentioned often, is that ‘Dr Google’ is not a reliable source of education, or credible research for that matter. Nor should it replace a qualified healthcare professional’s advice, or proper credible research.

Is it an extensive search, or proper research?

When patients often say to me that they have researched something, it probably more likely means that have done an extensive search. More often than not, it means it is an extensive google search. As I said before, I recommend people search extensively and do their homework and become fully informed. Being informed gives you choices and this is a good thing.

Searching and research are two completely different things. When it does come to finding quality research, one needs to know how to distinguish between good research and bad research. This is where many come undone, unless they have studied how to evaluate proper research methodology and criteria.

Anyone can create a spectacular medical website

Now days anyone can post anything they like on their website, make it look pretty, quote a few research papers and make their page look like it is backed up with valid research. Let’s face it; making a website is pretty easy these days. It is so easy that your grandmother could do it and make out she was a professor with an academic position.

Current research is via subscription only

The other issue is research that is freely available to the public. Most research freely available to the public is often around 7-10 years old. Most current research is not even available to the public, unless you are studying and have access to university journal subscriptions. Current research is usually only available to academics and health professionals who have paid subscriptions, or who have academic positions. So by the time this free research is then made available to the public, it is usually out of date and superseded by current research.

Knowing how to interpret good quality research

We also have the issue that even if many of the general public could access credible current research, they probably would not be able to interpret it properly anyway. I know when I studied statistics and research criteria it took years to fully know how to interpret proper research and all the research terms. Let’s face it, without proper training most people would be flat out knowing what a T score, Z score, or null hypothesis meant, let alone all the other technical data terms.

Abstracts of research can be misleading

We also see abstracts getting cited to back someone’s claims up. The problem with abstracts is that it is not the full research paper and the headings on these abstracts can falsely convey what the actual research team actually found. I see many people “cherry pick” (meaning chose something to suit ones opinion) research and abstracts of research just to validate a personal opinion and also make it sound like it is factual. This is the whole issue with Dr Googling these days. Much of what is out there is not only not factual, but it is a far cry from what the original research paper actually stated.

There are flaws and lots of bias in research

There can also be high levels of bias in research too, based on who funded the research in the first place. A landmark study into the validity of current medical research showed that much of the published medical research is apparently flawed, cannot be replicated and/or has limited or no value. (1)(2)(3)(4)  This is also why it is important to know how to interpret and critic good quality research and know what is good research, or bad research.

The point I am trying to make is that while many people are searching for answers and looking to find good research, the fact is much of what is out there is very questionable indeed.

Finding out more information

When it comes to good research, or finding a good healthcare practitioner etc, it is like anything else in life. You do a lot of searching, then you narrow you choices down and then you go about finding out more information. The only way you are really going to know if you the information you are seeing on some website it factual is to ask to find out more information.

The value of a second opinion

I always tell my patients the value of a second, or third, or tenth opinion. It is like buying a car, or buying anything for that matter. You need to do the search and then go and find out in person. Ask the staff questions and then ask for an appointment to see whom you have searched up and found may be good for you to see. Then you need to meet the person and see if they stack up to how they are portraying themselves online. Do they know their stuff, or it is all just smoke and mirrors and just good advertising?

Get help to interpret research papers

If it is purely research you are looking at, find out if the actual research is factual and done via good research methodology. If you don’t know how to interpret research, then find someone who does. Never just go blindly off abstracts (eg –pubmed abstracts), or second hand research published on newsfeeds, or websites. Honestly, most good research is behind closed doors where you have to pay for it and if you aren’t paying for it, there is probably a good reason why it is being offered freely to all.

What to look for when searching and researching

When doing your searches, or research as many call it, then you need to be looking at the following:

  1. Where did you find the research? – Was it from a reputable source? (eg- paid journal)
  2. Was the information about the research interpreted by someone then posted in their own words? – Did they site the actual research they are referencing?
  3. Does the research have the potential to be biased? – (eg- a research paper stating softdrink is good for you and funded by a softdrink company)
  4. If it is a healthcare facility, or person you are searching, does their research seem like it is legitimate? – Is the information on their website directly created by personal opinion and do they back their words up with research and referencing?
  5. Does the person you are intending to see have backing to show they are an expert in what you are going to see them for? – (eg- do they post blogs on the subject you are needing to see them for, or does their website say that they are an expert in a particular field?
  6. Does the facility, or person, seem genuine, or does their website just seem like money grabbing and a fancy advertising stunt to lure people in?

Final Note

At the end of the day, in this current day and age, everything needs to be met with the caution of “Buyer Beware”. This goes for anyone you are searching (or go to see), or any information you find on the internet. Just do your homework and make sure who you are seeing, or what you are reading is legitimate.

But at the same time, when you do go and see someone, you do need to have an open mind and not go in with resistance either. This could get a genuine person offside and then ruin your chances of getting the help off someone really good. Never project your last experience onto the next person because the next person could be the one to help you.

Just remember that your new degree in Dr Google research may not be as good as the person’s real degree, education and clinical experience you are sitting in front of. But at the same time, the so called expert in front of you may not be an expert, just because they have a great website with all the glitz and glamour on it.

Regards

Andrew Orr

-No Stone Left Unturned

-Master of Women’s Health Medicine

-Master of Reproductive Medicine

-Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate

 

References

  1. Protect us from poor-quality medical research- Human Reproduction, Volume 33, Issue 5, May 2018, Pages 770–776, https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dey056
  2. Altman DG. The scandal of poor medical research. Br Med J 1994;308:283
  3. Core Outcomes in Women’s Health (CROWN) Initiative. The CROWN Initiative: journal editors invite researchers to develop core outcomes in women’s health. Hum Reprod 2014;29:1349–1350.
  4. Flacco ME, Manzoli L, Boccia S, Capasso L, Aleksovska K, Rosso A, Scaioli G, De Vito C, Siliquini R, Villari P et al. . Head-to-head randomized trials are mostly industry-sponsored and almost always favour the industry sponsor. J Clin Epidemiol  2015;