a. When a person discovers that he is becoming ill, it is only natural for him to
experience anxiety about the events to follow, especially if he suspects that he has a
severe illness or one which will result in a long recovery period. There may be many
questions on his mind that he cannot answer at this point. Will the illness cause long-
term or permanent damage? Will there be a lot of pain--from the illness or the
treatment? Is there any possibility of disfigurement or disability? How will the family
b. One common response to this anxiety is to deny that the illness exists. A
patient may refuse to accept the fact that he is ill and may actually show signs of being
in perfectly good health.
As the illness progresses, the patient is usually forced to accept the fact that he
is ill and must accept treatment. Along with this acceptance, he may begin to lose
interest in things that do not involve his health and satisfaction of his needs. If carried to
the extreme, he may become totally self-centered, like a child. If his world becomes
dominated by thoughts and discussions of his illness, his medications, his temperature,
his pulse rate, and so forth, he may be viewed by others as a hypochondriac. Feelings
of inadequacy may cause him to become emotionally dependent on others, especially if
his illness brought about a physical dependency. Although these personality changes
may appear to be anything but healthy, they are common and often necessary
responses. They should begin to cease when medical treatment ends or succeeds in
reversing the progression of illness.
a. The convalescence stage is the period of time it takes the patient to drop
these changes in behavior and "become himself" again. The amount of time required
for this stage may be prolonged if the patient was unable to work out some of his
anxieties while he was in the acceptance stage. He may still be unsure of the severity,
duration, or other aspects of his illness. He may find it difficult to regain his independent
state due to fear of losing the support of his family and the hospital staff. If he has been
hospitalized for a long period of time, he may now view hospital life--the staff, the other
patients, the routine--as being comforting and satisfying.
b. Again, different people respond to illness in different ways. One person may
go through all the stages just discussed; another, through none of them; a third may
experience them, but in a different order from the first.