Achieving Happiness Column
By Tom Muha, Ph.D.
MAXIMIZING YOUR MEDICAL
you have a serious illness such as heart disease or cancer? Perhaps you have a
family history that leaves you vulnerable to these illnesses?
can make important contributions to regaining your health, or to remaining
healthy even if you have risk factors. Psychologist Albert W. Scovern has
studied how people can improve their chances of recovering from a disease, or
avoid getting sick in the first place. He found two essential elements:
The patient’s ability to keep both their state of mind and their relationships
The ability of the physician and patient to create a healing relationship.
who apply an optimistic mind set to their physical well-being are able to
remain hopeful in spite of the fact they have physical problems. They expect
that they’ll get better, so they organize a plan of action they believe will be
best suited for their body. Then they become proactive in pursuing their goal
people who allow their fears to overwhelm them lose hope, resulting in
increased health complications and poor treatment outcomes.
findings of a recent longitudinal study of 2,428 men clearly demonstrate the
effects of hopelessness. The men who felt that their future looked bleak had
more than three times the risk of death, primarily from cardiovascular disease
25-year study of doctors and lawyers discovered that those who had the highest
levels of hostility and cynicism were four to five times more likely to develop
related study, patients in cardiac rehabilitation who were taught how to reduce
their level of anger were significantly less likely to have a second heart
attack or other fatal complications.
researchers have explored the factors that predict survival times for women who
have had a recurrence of breast cancer. The foremost factor determining
survivability was the length of time since the initial treatment.
the second most powerful predictor of the women who live significantly longer
was psychological in nature. It was the amount of joy they experienced, as
reflected in feelings of being cheerful, glad, hopeful and optimistic.
support has also been shown to be beneficial to women coping with breast
cancer. Patients who participated in group therapy were found to live twice as
long as those in a control group. After four years, none of the women in the
control group were alive, but one third of the group therapy patients were
have consistently been shown to be a significant factor in producing positive
outcomes with both cancer and coronary patients. Those who were happily
married, had close contact with their family, or had good connections with a
group of friends were found to be two or three times less likely to die over a
it’s been found, is a distinctly human process based in large part on the
relationship that is established between a doctor and patient.
some health care systems mechanically prescribe treatments, abundant research
reveals that effective medicine is far more than a mere technological enterprise.
Without a strong doctor-patient connection,
50% of patients refuse to take action when given referral advice, 75% miss
follow-up appointments, and half of those with a chronic illness drop out of
treatment within a year.
who get the best results form a good alliance with their patients by allaying
anxiety, instilling hope and confidence, and communicating a belief in the
treatment they’re recommending. They also encourage their patients to engage in
a collaboration in which responsibility for achieving a positive outcome is
hospital studies have shown that patients who have high levels of preoperative
fear and anxiety also have the most postoperative pain and longer hospital
stays. But if the doctor talks to the patient before surgery and helps to
reduce the patient’s concerns, their recovery is much easier and faster.
doctor who can create a good alliance will have good listening skills, an
interest in your attitude and relationships, clear and confident explanations
of the treatments being recommended, and strong support for your own efforts to
regain your health.
physicians take the time to form a personal relationship with their patients
that promotes trust, caring and optimism. These are essential healing
components for helping you to make it through treatment and for assisting you
to adopt healthy new behaviors.
a physician with whom you can relate. Your life may depend on it.
Tom Muha is a psychologist in
Annapolis. He welcomes your comments and questions. To contact him call (443)
454-7274 or email him at email@example.com.