Patient Mindset Matters in Healing

How we understand—or don't understand—our illness is key in recovering from it
BY Brandon LaGreca TIMEAugust 26, 2022 PRINT

Last year, after I published “Cancer, Stress & Mindset,” a book about a healing mindset to best empower cancer patients, I realized that there’s a more general approach to mindset that applies to all health challenges.

While there may be elements of mindset that correspond to the ebbs and flows of specific disease states, there’s also a general mindset that applies broadly. There are also three common obstacles to adopting a foundational healing mindset.

Not Knowing Enough

This is the simplest (but not always the easiest) block to rectify when adopting a healing mindset. It entails not having the proper diagnosis with which to align one’s efforts. Deriving the right course of treatment takes a combination of a patient’s insights mirrored by the experience of a trusted health care provider.

For example, let’s take someone who wakes up with acute wrist pain. Perhaps it’s carpal tunnel syndrome, a median nerve impingement in the wrist. But it could be thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve and circulatory obstruction in the shoulder girdle. It might also be cubital syndrome, or ulnar nerve entrapment in the elbow. Each of these diagnoses has differentiating signs and symptoms, and they can be present at the same time.

The trick is finding the right medical provider who can ferret out the proper diagnosis or diagnoses. Dr. Google can help, but that also leads to the next obstacle to adopting a healing mindset.

Knowing Too Much

This is a harder nut to crack, personified by someone attached to their diagnosis. It matters little if that diagnosis was issued from a medical doctor or from Dr. Google. If the diagnosis is incorrect (or incomplete), but if attachment to it prevents considering other lines of treatment, then knowing too much is a liability.

It can be particularly frustrating for practitioners of traditional medicine when a patient who has been through the medical wringer has arrived at a “conclusive” diagnosis that, although comforting, fails to address the root cause of the disease. Diagnoses such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia are helpful labels to describe a group of symptoms that rarely correspond to successful treatment options.

Not Knowing What You Don’t Know

This is the trickiest obstacle to a healing mindset; it’s the diagnosis that eludes patient and practitioner alike. An example of a poorly understood and seldom acknowledged diagnosis is chronic Lyme disease. With limited testing for tick-borne illnesses, it’s the rare medical provider who can derive the correct antimicrobial course of treatment based upon clinical presentation alone.

Silent infections get their name by being insidious, often presenting with symptoms months or even years after initial exposure. Environmental toxicants pose a similar burden, not presenting with symptoms loud enough to diagnose acutely, but robbing one of life chronically. I’ve witnessed patients bear a mysterious and slow degradation in their health over years from undetected radon or mold exposure.

Think Outside the Box

Healing takes time, and it takes the right trajectory. A healing mindset maps the course ahead, providing guidance on treatment options and lifestyle changes that will most effectively help you arrive at your destination of optimal health. Awareness of the obstacles clears that path so that you don’t waste time, energy, and money on medical red herrings.

Now that you understand the foundation of mindset, build upon it with nuanced concepts of healing specific to your needs. Do you need to be empowered to make better dietary choices following a diabetes diagnosis? Perhaps a growth mindset around exercise is at the top of the pyramid for moving through chronic muscle pain. Is the fear of death preventing you from living your life to the fullest after a cancer diagnosis? Ask yourself these leading questions, but only upon a bedrock understanding of a healing mindset.

Brandon LaGreca, LAc, MAcOM, is a licensed acupuncturist in the state of Wisconsin. He is the author of “Cancer and EMF Radiation: How to Protect Yourself From the Silent Carcinogen of Electropollution” and “Cancer, Stress & Mindset: Focusing the Mind to Empower Healing and Resilience.” He shares his thoughts at Empowered Patient Blog.
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