by Charles K. Bens, Ph.D.
Health in Your Pocket
by Charles K. Bens, Ph.D.
The current health-=care crisis in America has many people calling for more self-care, but exactly what do “they” mean by self-care. Certainly no one envisions the average people performing surgery on themselves or writing out their own drug prescriptions.
By the same token, we can hardly imagine that the American Medical Association would define self-care in the same way a naturopathic doctor would. Is self-care some scheme to get people to stop going to the hospital every time they sneeze or stub their toes?
What are some definition possibilities for self-care?
- Passive self-care—This might be one favored by many conventional doctors and could involve asking questions about the diagnosis, as well as the recommended treatment for a particular illness. Some doctors do not even want to entertain questions since they feel that patients know so little about medicine that they are not qualified to challenge or question a doctors diagnosis or treatment.
- Curious self-care – In this case, patients may ask some questions of their primary care physicians and, if not totally satisfied, might seek a second or even third opinion. This level of self-care usually kicks in when a more serious illness is diagnosed and the patient wishes to avoid an operation or an invasive treatment such as chemotherapy. The patient may also be frightened enough to ask about less invasive treatment possibilities, and may actually identify some if one of the doctors contacted has taken the time to study complementary or alternative treatment modalities.
- Inquiring self-care – This definition of self-care is similar to the previous “curious” definition with the exception that individuals, in this case, would do some research in order to better prepare questions, especially for second and third opinion doctors. They may even suggest some complementary or alternative treatments, but would not press for them, if their doctor discouraged their use. The other distinguishing characteristic of this type of self-care is that it is mainly reactive is not very proactive or preventive.
- Consultative self-care – This is the first self-care definition that includes active prevention and consultation between doctor and patient on how to prevent illness, as well as how to treat conditions that have been diagnosed. Patients are likely engaged with conventional as well as alternative practitioners on a regular basis or have found a holistic M.D. who incorporates many medical modalities. Some medical offices now have a full range of practitioners available from which the patient can pick and choose.
- Assertive self-care – These individuals are often called self-healers. They will usually consult a doctor only in a true medical emergency and would much rather research their condition and find one or more alternative treatments for any illness. They are also very engaged in illness prevention with some people being borderline hypochondriacs. They tend to think they will get various diseases and will take many different approaches to avoid them, including restricted diets, heavy supplementation and regular tests to ensure nothing has actually changed in their bodies.
We can see from the previous definitions that self-care can be defined in many ways and we should be careful not to see these definitions as comprehensive or rigid. People may move from one category to another over time or change approaches depending on their situation. Some people may think they are engaged in prevention because they eat a “balanced” diet, don’t smoke, get some exercise and take a multi-vitamin.
More definitions are not possible here, but these definitions are a starting point to determine where you are in terms of personal responsibility…..WANT MORE? ORDER HEALTH IN YOUR POCKET NOW!