New Atmosphere, New Vision: Gibson and Whittemore Kick Off Invest in ME Conference 2016
Mark Berry reports on Dr. Gibson's introduction and Dr. Whittemore's keynote speech, at the 11th Invest in ME International ME Conference in London.
Discuss the article on the Forums.

Is having a positive attitude helpful? Some insight from cancer

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Tony Mach, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. Tony Mach

    Tony Mach Show me the evidence.

    Upper Palatinate, Bavaria
    A recent study of cancer patients in Finland and Sweden found no association between survival rates and whether people were positive or negative in their outlook.

    The study, in the American Journal Of Epidemiology, looked at 4,600 people with cancer over 30 years, and found that whether they were extrovert or neurotic, their attitude to life had no relationship with how long they survived their illness.

    So staying positive is not going to improve the body's response to a disease like cancer. I think this is an important finding, as I guess some of us have seen how easy it is to "blame the patient".

    What they didn't test though is if you can enjoy your life better when you try to maintain a positive attitude despite having a chronic illness.
    Waverunner and L'engle like this.
  2. SickOfSickness

    SickOfSickness Senior Member

    They should've gotten feedback from the patients about that, while they had so many patients.
  3. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

    Encouraging people to maintain a positive attitude about the hardships they face useful for those who want to play down their plight.

    The medicalisation of the cognitions of the weak is a wonderful way of delegitimising their appeals for justice... all for their own good of course.
  4. Sean

    Sean Senior Member

    Agree with Esther.

    Never had much respect for the optimism ideology. Constructive realism is the best option. Do the best you can, but accept that sometimes you will be very seriously constrained, with no good or easy choices available.
    pollycbr125 likes this.
  5. *GG*

    *GG* senior member

    Concord, NH
    Would having a postive attitude help prevent depression?

  6. pollycbr125

    pollycbr125 Senior Member

    cancer is an awful illness and has devastated my family for generations . Even my son was diagnosed at 2 1/2 years old . Now ive spent months and months on a childrens oncology ward an experience which I must say really opens your eyes . the real world hasnt got a clue . Ive known babies born with cancer , now how does a baby have a pos or neg attitude ?

    Luckily my son survived but many children didnt . Many children died who didnt even know how severley ill they were . Only the older children understood the severity of the illness and the possible consequences off . Ive seen children die who were expected to make a full recovery and children survive who were given very little hope at certain points . Ive seen children clinging onto life in intensive care and a week later running round the ward as if nothing had happened . Ive seen children who were tolerating treatment well and the next day theyve died suddenly out of the blue .

    Ive seen children running round the ward happy and children crying because they are in pain .Despite being ill most children carried on being just that a child , playing with toys , watching videos , whatever they could manage to do within the limits of their illness . I only ever saw teens ask if they were going to die but the little ones just knew they were poorly . So attitude has very little to do with a childs recovery from cancer .

    My son is now almost an adult . He is checked yearly and over the years he has had his illness explained to him . he is fully aware of what happened , the consequences of and the possibility of the chance of developing cancer at a later date .

    Ive always said cancer is a bit of a lottery , it doesnt matter what you do . I would say that the expertise of the consultant treating you and the options available to you had the most influence in wether you survive or not .

    ive seen children that the NHS have said sorry there is nothing more we can do and their parents have taken the child to America for treatment unavailable here . they have then survived .
  7. snowathlete


    I went out with a girl years ago whose mother had recovered from cancer.
    She told me that the idea that you 'fight' the cancer with a positive attitude is a falacy. The cancer does not give a damn how you feel about it, it will just kill you if it can. Simple. She said the treatments knock you back so much, that there is nothing you can do but lie there, and hope and pray. Its like sending someone to the front line without a gun or armour and standing them there at the front and letting the snippers have free shots.

    If your lucky you survive because they miss. No amount of positive thought will increase you chance.

    She told me that she hated those statements made when someone died of it, "after a hard-fought battle with Cancer, so and so sadly passed away" or whatever, because she said it just pretended it was less horrible than it was, suggesting some kind of level playign field, or at least a fight with two parties even if unequal. She told me that it just wasnt the reality of it.

    She was a lovely woman. Taught me to drive actually. Hope she is still alive, ive long since lost contact.
  8. Snow Leopard

    Snow Leopard Hibernating

    South Australia
    Sean and currer like this.
  9. Snow Leopard

    Snow Leopard Hibernating

    South Australia
  10. currer

    currer Senior Member

    People like to think that their attitude will affect their survival. It is hard for them to accept that it probably does not.
    So the belief that attitude influences outcome will persist, even with no proof to back it up.

    I also agree that "positive thinking" as a requirement for recovery places an unfair burden on the sick, but even though studies do not support this connection, the wish to believe that one has some control over illness will not disappear in the population at large.

    You need some experience of chronic illness to understand how obdurate illness can be.
    Angela Kennedy likes this.
  11. HowToEscape?

    HowToEscape? Senior Member

    There are several facets to this.

    "Positive Thinking" is used by some people to do their favorite thing, which is to accuse others of being inferior to themselves and in particular deserving of whatever evils have come their way. This is an ancient human trait; people despise the weak and salute the strong, with exceptions made where they can sharpen their self-righteousness. e.g, people who support "disability rights", including only disabilities they approve of or can imagine themselves having at some point. People who are not particularly special but think themselves so seem to do a great deal of this.

    There's an entirely different facet, which is like keeping a clean house. It's very useful to govern your thoughts and feelings, not allowing a sad outlook to creep in. The truth may be that we have a currently incurable, degenerative illness, but thinking that constantly is poison. Minding one's mind isn't like designing a bridge: with a bridge you want to think about what could go wrong and have no illusions that soft rivets, uninspected welds or untested ground anchors will turn out just fine.

    That doesn't work as an approach to life... at least not when I did it. To keep oneself going I believe you have to shade things modestly towards optimism, otherwise the brain can get into a bad state. It's a health issue, not a logic problem and is based on a sort of exercise for your mind rather than an accounting problem. Being unhappy or having thoughts about bad things causes physical harm to the brain, which can have a cascade effect on everything else in life. Happy thoughts won't cure cancer or much of anything else, but too many bad thoughts for too long can, I believe, set off a cascade of trouble.

    Nature plays a nasty trick here; if you're stuck in bad situation there's a natural mechanism to make it worse via being too aware of what's wrong, which then becomes physically embedded in the brain, creating physical processes that reinforce themselves. Ain't fair, but then neither is anything else. I suppose none if this is news to most people, but it took me quite a while to learn.
    Snow Leopard likes this.

See more popular forum discussions.

Share This Page