Diagnosis Shock: The Unrecognized Burden of Illness
Dr. Judith Swack will present “Banish Phobias, Fears and Traumas” at 10:30AM on Saturday, November 13 at the 2021 Natural Living Expo.
Diagnosis shock is the traumatic reaction people experience the moment they first suspect or are told that they have a serious physical or emotional illness. Sadly, health care providers are not trained to recognize or treat psychological trauma.
Left untreated, diagnosis shock can cause a host of emotional and physical problems substantially eroding a person’s health and quality of life. In fact, researchers in the field of health psychology have found that in some people the trauma can be so severe it can lead to mental illness, such as depression and anxiety.
In the moment of initial shock, people ask themselves consciously or unconsciously, “What could this ___ (news or symptom) possibly mean?” The unconscious mind instantly generates a worst case scenario of loss of function or death so vivid, extreme and frightening that it often triggers a fi ght-or-flight trauma reaction. People describe this reaction as an intense adrenaline rush of fear, a feeling of frozenness or numbness, and/or a sharp indrawn breath followed by an inability to breathe normally, think clearly, or hear anything that’s said following the pronouncement.
Exclamations such as “I don’t believe it” or “It can’t be true” are common. People may develop negative reactions to the environment and the people associated with the memory. These exaggerated, irrational, emotional and physical, i.e. phobic, responses occur so rapidly that many people are not even consciously aware that they are in shock.
In addition to shock and fear, people feel a whole range of emotions including anger, sadness, hurt, pain, shame, guilt, emptiness and powerlessness. As in all traumas, people experience anticipatory phobias, a pervasive underlying feeling of dread that the traumatic event will reoccur. After recovery, people report anxiety about going to the doctor for fear of bad news. Even little symptoms or seemingly abnormal reactions trigger the fear that the illness has returned. Some people avoid attending support groups for fear that others in the group will die and depress or frighten them out of their optimistic healing attitude.
To cope with traumatic reactions, people commonly use avoidance, distraction, repression, denial and magical thinking. These strategies do not eliminate the fear from the unconscious mind or body, and in fact, cause added stress. In some cases these coping behaviors cause health complications when people avoid, put off or fail to comply with treatment recommendations. Furthermore, studies from the field of psychoneuroimmunology have shown that traumatic stress itself has negative health effects because it suppresses the immune system.
Diagnosis shock can interfere with doctor/patient collaboration and the ability to choose treatment options. Many people work well and respectfully with their doctors and health care providers. In cases where people do have a serious illness, patients are often given many treatment options and opinions and asked to choose their own treatment (while traumatized). For certain illnesses, recommended treatment options can be extreme, shocking and offer no guarantees. Even the doctors may be uncertain of the treatment plan or inform patients that there is nothing they can do.
Patients may experience such intense feelings of doubt, confusion and overwhelm that they develop phobias about making treatment decisions at all, fearing that if they make the wrong decision it could kill them. Or they may second-guess, obsess or over-treat themselves in an attempt to cover all the bases. If the treatment is unsuccessful, the person may blame him or her self or the doctor.
After diagnosis shock has imprinted, no amount of facts or real information to the contrary can erase it. Diagnosis shock must be cleared directly from the unconscious mind and body. Simple self healing techniques from the field of energy psychology work in minutes by activating the calming reflex used by the nervous system to neutralize the fight-or-flight reflex, thus eliminating the phobic reactions from the conscious mind, unconscious mind and body.
These techniques involve tapping with the fingertips on selected areas of the face, torso, and hands, using eye movements and left brain/right brain integration techniques to resolve traumatic reactions. The techniques can be used every morning to neutralize any fears for what may possibly happen that day, and every evening to calm anything that might have been upsetting during the day. It is also recommended for use before doctor’s appointments or before any kind of treatment to clear the body’s fear of invasion and harm. During treatments, the techniques are useful for reminding the body that this treatment is a healing intervention and to ask the body to fully receive its benefits. This includes asking the body to send the treatment to where it is needed and to protect other parts of the body where the treatment might be harmful. It is also useful for clearing feelings of doubt, uncertainty and overwhelm.
There are many sources of information to learn about tapping techniques for self healing including. Some of these include:
- Arenson, G., Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing: The Last Self-Help Book You Will Ever Need, NY, Fireside/Simon and Shuster, 2001
- Callahan, R., Stop the Nightmares of Trauma, North Carolina, Professional Press, 2000.
- Durlacher, J.V., Freedom from Fear Forever, Tempe, AZ, Van Ness Publishing Co., 1994.
- Craig, Gary, Emotional Freedom Technique at www.emofree.com
- Fleming, T, You Can Heal Now: The Tapas Acupressure Technique, TAT Intl., 1999 available at www.tatlife.net
- Swack, J.A., “Diagnosis Shock: The Unrecognized Burden of Illness,” International Journal of Healing and Caring Online, January 2008, Vol. 8, No. 1; www.HBLU.org/papers.php
Finding a good professional who can help coach you through the learning and support stages is very helpful. Most importantly, encourage yourself to keep an open mind and a positive attitude during your healing journey for best results.
Judith A. Swack, Ph.D. is a biochemist/immunologist, master NLP practitioner and mind/body healer. She can be reached at Healing from the Body Level Up, Inc., 56 Pickering Street, Needham, MA 02492 or call (781) 444-6940. To learn more about HBLU™ visit www.HBLU.org.