...The insidious way in which being labelled anxious can harm patients was recently brought home to me by a former cancer patient who has spent years trying to disprove a diagnosis of anxiety in order to obtain income protection. His hospital discharge summary had carelessly listed anxiety as a diagnosis after he had sobbed one night at the uncertainty of his situation.
“Try insisting you’re not anxious – it’s an invitation to be labelled anxious,” he said wryly.
On the rounds I am about to begin, our patients will be mostly very ill. I will teach my residents that as benign as we might seem to each other, everything about us, and the hospital environment, creates anxiety. This anxiety isn’t pathological but normal. What’s more, it’s usually eased with better communication, empathy and acknowledgement that if we were in the patient’s shoes, we too would feel the same way...