Why Am I Still Sick? – The Empowered Patient vs. The Victim Patient

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Working with hundreds of patients around the world, it is tough to ignore certain patterns that exist in patients that get better quickly and patients that don’t. Practitioners all around the world are left scratching their heads when a patient comes in with a “textbook” presentation (all symptoms and test findings fit perfectly into a category) but does not get better when he or she is provided with the “textbook” recommendations.

To put it bluntly, sometimes patients can be their own worst enemy. A phenomenon I have paid close attention to in research is the placebo effect – a beneficial clinical effect that happens during a treatment (i.e. medication) that actually can’t be attributed to the treatment. In other words, a patient’s BELIEF in a treatment produces the desired treatment effect, even when the treatment was “not real” such as a sugar pill. A very closely related effect that has come to the forefront of research recently is the nocebo effect – when you BELIEVE something will harm you, whether it is a sugar pill or another mock intervention, it will. In other words, your beliefs and thoughts can literally sabotage you.

This has been even more apparent in recent weeks as I have had a few patients have tremendous breakthroughs after realizing this. A few weeks ago in a follow-up appointment with a younger patient of mine, she voiced her concerns about how stressed she was being in school, trying to maintain a healthy diet, and also working to stay on top of her supplementation. At one point she broke down and said “I don’t believe I will get better until I finish school”. This was a patient who had worked with several other practitioners for years and never had sustained success with her health. I immediately pointed out that if she believes she won’t get better until she finishes school, she simply won’t get better no matter what I recommend for her. What proceeded was an appointment where 80% was a long discussion on the nocebo effect and that this one belief can’t be out-supplemented or avoided. She was in shock – she couldn’t believe this pattern was taking place for so many years and has started to feel shifts in her health immediately after.

Similarly, another patient I have been working with has been dealing with the stress of relationship separation and admitted that she doesn’t see herself “healing” until this stressor is in the past. I again immediately called her out on this belief and thought pattern. She had a jaw-dropping realization that she had been sabotaging herself.

If you believe you are waiting for something to happen before you feel better, guess what? YOU ARE RIGHT!!! When we are waiting for something external to happen or when we blame outside factors that we don’t have any control over – we lose all CONTROL over our health.

Generally, I can categorize patients into 2 groups: The Empowered Patient and The Victim Patient.

The Empowered Patient comes to a practitioner and sees the doctor-patient relationship as a learning opportunity. They know they are in charge of their health and their healing and are simply looking for guidance and mentorship. The Empowered patient will go above and beyond what their practitioner tells them and communicate effectively. When these patients don’t get better, they know it is because we are missing a part and willing to work to dig deeper. They are willing to invest their time and resources to find answers and more importantly, willing to work on implementing what they learn.

The Victim Patient typically comes to a practitioner desperate for help but looking for someone else to fix them. This is a paramount mistake – when we put our health in the hands of another person, we have already failed ourselves. When we go to our doctor sick, we expect some sort of immediate intervention whether it’s a medication or a supplement that will do all the heavy-lifting for us. These are the patients that will send me a message with the subject line “help me”. Unfortunately, the truth is that no one can help you better than you can help yourself. When this group of patients don’t get better, they blame their practitioner, blame a family member, the economy, society, or some other external factor. The never take full responsibility for their well-being and continuously suffer and spiral downwards.

If you are still sick, look back at the type of relationship you had with previous practitioners. Did you treat them as your last hope or did you treat them as a partner that is going to help you CO-CREATE health. Once you put your healing in your own hands and seek knowledge and assistance from others, you have increased your chances of success exponentially. If every practitioner you see is your last hope or someone you put the entire responsibility of your healing on, you have just decreased your chances substantially.

Even patients with debilitating illnesses need to do this – if you are going through a tough journey where you have to undergo a strong medical treatment (immunosuppressants, chemotherapy, surgery, etc.), you have to respect this component of your care but once you start/finish this treatment, you still have to make sure you are feeding yourself right, you are practicing lifestyle technique to manage stress, and making sure the thoughts you think and believe are not self-sabotaging.

Empowered patients will achieve their health goals more effectively and consistently than Victim patients. It is also important to remember that Victim patients are not “bad people”. Many individuals go through extremely difficult times and experience unthinkable situations. The Victim mentality gets built over a life-time. If you feel you have had the Victim mentality and are reading this now, you do not have to live with it forever. The first step is awareness. If you have been sick for years, this is the ultimate starting point – empower yourself and take back control!

Dr. Brar is the author of Why Am I Still Sick? How Functional Medicine Can Help You Uncover Your Blind Spots, Overcome Chronic Illness, and Regain Control of Your Health available on Amazon. He explores the deeper reasons why some patients stay sick while others get better. If you feel you have been suffering for a long period of time and would like to learn more about Dr. Brar’s approach, you can schedule a FREE discovery call by visiting speakwithdrbrar.com