THE HEALTH-ILLNESS CONTINUUM
a. The individual's state of health is one of continual change. He moves back
and forth from health to illness and back to health again. His condition is rarely
constant. He may wake up feeling great, develop a headache mid-morning, and feel
fine again by noon. The health-illness continuum (see figure 1-1) illustrates this process
of change, in which the individual experiences various states of health and illness
(ranging from extremely good health to death) that fluctuate throughout his life.
Figure 1-1. The health-illness continuum.
b. As we previously stated, health, just as life itself, is a process of continual
change. And we must continually adapt to these changes in our lives in order to
maintain good health and well-being. It is our adaptation or response to that change,
rather than the change itself, that affects our health. For example, two students just
found out about a big test tomorrow, for which they are completely unprepared. One
student responds to this stressful situation (stressor) by going home, getting his books
out, and starting to study. The other student breaks out into a sweat, and spends most
of the evening fretting over this outrage and imagining what will happen to him if he
doesn't pass the test. No doubt, this student is doing more damage to his health than is
his friend. And, considering the time and energy he is expending on worrying (and not
studying), he may experience even more stress when they receive their grades!
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