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How to Cope with a Health Condition or Disorder

Updated on February 24, 2013
Receiving news from your doctor that you've been diagnosed with some health conditions or illnesses can be anxiety-provoking at first.
Receiving news from your doctor that you've been diagnosed with some health conditions or illnesses can be anxiety-provoking at first. | Source

How Will You Feel When You Get the Diagnosis?

Your reaction when you learn the diagnosis for the symptoms you've been experiencing is going to depend on multiple factors:

  • Your age
  • Your life experience
  • The diagnosis itself
  • The implications of treatment
  • The severity of the condition or disorder
  • Your prior knowledge of and and experiences with others with the same diagnosis
  • The severity of your symptoms and length of illness/pain
  • The source of your diagnosis

If you're like many people, the last words you'll likely hear when your health care provider tells you the diagnosis is that diagnosis itself. The provider may continue with explanations or other information, but if the diagnosis itself provokes anxiety, surprise or disbelief, your thoughts will be on that, not what the provider is saying. This isn't at all abnormal.

Taking someone with you to such an appointment may be helpful because that person will likely be in a position to hear what the provider is saying and to ask pertinent questions that may allude you at that time. Another option is to make another appointment in the very near future to return to the provider to ask questions and receive information.

Evaluating the Source of Your Diagnosis

You might wonder how the source of the diagnosis of your health condition or disorder could have a bearing on how well you handle that information. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found that 35 percent of American adults have gone online to determine what medical condition they, or someone they know, may have.

It can be frightening or difficult to learn of your diagnosis at a personal visit with your health care provider, but imagine the panic that could ensue from discovering through even the most trustworthy Internet resources information about a health condition that could have long-ranging effects.

Here, a line from former president Ronald Reagan (borrowed from a Russian proverb) applies: Trust, but verify. Self-diagnosis online must be verified by a health care provider before you accept it as accurate. The Internet is a great place to search for health and medical information, but neither you nor the computer have the same set of diagnostic skills as a degreed practitioner.

"Trust, but verify," also pertains to any diagnosis or absence of diagnosis from a health care provider. Some doctors will suggest you get a second opinion, others leave it up to your discretion. A good way to go in obtaining a second opinion is to seek one outside the medical practice to which your medical provider is a member and look for a specialist in the area of medicine that addresses your health situation.

Some people cope with their health conditions by becoming involved in awareness and/or prevention efforts.
Some people cope with their health conditions by becoming involved in awareness and/or prevention efforts. | Source

Steps to Take After Your Diagnosis for Health Condition or Disorder

The severity of your newly-diagnosed health condition will affect how you learn to handle the condition or disorder. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, AHRQ, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests five basic steps:

  • 1. Take the time you need. The diagnosis of many health conditions can cause people to feel many things, from anxiety and shock to depression, denial and guilt. Don't beat yourself up for having these feelings, but work through them. Be open to talking with friends and loved ones about how you feel; seek spiritual or psychological support if you feel hopeless or caught up in negative feelings for a prolonged period of time.
  • Don't rush to make decision about treatment while your emotions are high. Ask your health care provider how long you can safely take to take action about your condition.
  • 2. Get the support you need. As mentioned, seek support and comfort from those around you. Consider resources such as support groups or self-help groups of people with health conditions such as yours; this can be accomplished in-person locally or via the Internet.
  • 3. Talk with your doctor. You and s/he are partners in your health care. The only way partners can work together effectively is if there is open and honest communication between the two of you. Even though you may be seeking information about your disorder from a number of resources, which is good to do, always ask your doctor first about questions and concerns you may have.
  • 4. Seek out information. Look for evidence-based information; this is information obtained from clinical trials and outcomes research and is scientifically-based. Health and medical information abound in all types of media, but not all available information is reliable or accurate. You're going to want to know you can rely on the information you find.
  • 5. Decide on a treatment plan. By now you've talked with your doctor, perhaps gotten a second opinion on your diagnosis and sought out information from reliable sources. It's time for you and your partner in health care -- your doctor -- to look at the treatment options for your condition, weigh the pros and cons of each and move forward with the treatment plan you've chosen. At this point, you may well feel empowered because you're sharing the reins of your health care. It is a big step and one you should feel successful to have made.
  • Remember to keep an open dialogue with your doctor along the way of treatment and keep your support options close by and available.

Best Books on Coping with Illness


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    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Visionandfocus, you make good points here. And if a person is unable to find someone to go to the doctor's office with them, they have the option of asking the physician if the visit can be recorded. It's certainly not as beneficial as having a supportive person at that visit, but at least the information will be saved and can be shared/re-listened to.

      Thank you for your read, comments and vote.

    • visionandfocus profile image


      5 years ago from North York, Canada

      Excellent hub. It's so important that someone is not alone when receiving their diagnosis, so your point about taking someone along is extremely important. I should also add that you better take someone who's likely to be less emotional than yourself. People can get traumatized by the diagnosis (and prognosis) alone, so it's important to take along someone who's likely to remain calm and be able to comfort the patient and retain all necessary info.

      Also, I would always advise getting a second, perhaps even a third opinion. I went with my mom to several specialists because I did not like or agree with the first one. With doctors and specialists, we should not be cowed into thinking that they have all the answers. They don't. Be proactive and do your own due diligence. As you pointed out, there is a lot of info available online.

      Thanks for a really useful hub. Voted up!

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Younghopes, thank you for reading, commenting and voting. Have you had experience with yourself or someone close to you dealing with a diagnosis or health condition?

    • younghopes profile image

      Shadaan Alam 

      5 years ago from India

      very useful and informative hub, voted !!

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Thanks so much for your read, comments and more. I hope the information here helps to make feel empowered in their health care and lives in general.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very useful information here. Certainly before going in for treatment for a major disease diagnosed, it is better to get a second or even a third opinion.

      This is an invaluable hub that I need to pass on. Voted up and useful too.


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