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  Coping With Your Diagnosis

Stages of coping

Receiving a diagnosis can be a harrowing and anxiety producing experience. Initially one may experience shock and denial, questioning the diagnosis and believing it cannot be true. This may involve questioning the doctor, going for a second opinion and even a third opinion, until the point that one can no longer deny the diagnosis. The extent of shock may vary according to your personal coping style, reasoning and thinking style (i.e. optimism vs pessimism), the ability to manage anxiety, self confidence and problem solving ability. Obviously the extent of shock may also relate to the type of diagnosis. Life threatening illnesses such as cancer are more difficult to cope with than diagnosis such as arthritis. However we all perceive danger quite differently and so for some arthritis can be as frightening a prospect as cancer. It depends to a large extent on our (1) attributional style or how we perceive the causation of the illness (2) self-efficacy or how confident we are in our ability to cope with the illness (3) emotional intelligence or how able we are to logically plan for treatment and optimistically deal with its' consequences.

Shock and denial may eventually turn into Anger and resentment as one comes to terms with the reality of the diagnosis. Along with anger may come rejection of others, isolating oneself and avoidance of social opportunities. This may be a very inward experience causing depression and anxiety as well as sleep difficulties, changes to eating patterns and a general feeling of helplessness.

Ultimately adjustment is required on your part so that one can get on with the day to day aspects of life as well as face treatment. With adjustment comes an improvement in attitude and re-integration into social activity, less anxiety and reduction in depression. This is a time of change, perhaps ensuring treatment is accompanied by good support, healthy lifestyle and a turn from helplessness to optimism. Acceptance is the final stage in dealing more effectively with a diagnosis, no longer denying but rather acknowledging the need for proactive involvement in ones' own heath and treatment thereof.

Fear is an everpresent companion. The degree of fear depends on your ability to increase your level of optimism and decrease your anxiety and pessimism. Support is always important.

What else can I do to increase the way I cope with my illness and diagnosis?

Try working towards acceptance rather than denial; ensure you have a support "team", keep busy with hobbies, stay active and proactive rather than succumbing to feelings of helplessness, read about your condition but do not become obsessed with too much detail.

I can be reached on 0414 985 280 if you need additional help.

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