It is very natural to be fearful about a new situation in which you have limited knowledge and feel as if you no longer have control over what is happening to you. Whether it's starting a new job, moving to a new city, or being diagnosed with a disease such as arthritis, fear is a normal reaction. This fear may be even greater for people who have been healthy their entire lives and now find themselves faced with the problem of having to depend on others, including family and medical personnel, to help them perform everyday activities. One step toward fighting the fear and regaining some control is learning as much as you can about your disease.
One of the best sources of reliable information about your specific condition should be your doctor. Other members of your health-care team are also likely to be valuable resources in this regard. From them, you should be able to get a clear description of what is happening to your body, if and how the disease is likely to progress, and how the various treatment strategies -- medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy -- may help you to improve.
If you are new to the role of patient, you may find communicating with your health-care providers a bit frustrating at first. It may seem at times that they are speaking a different language, using unfamiliar terms and abbreviations that mean very little to you. It is important, therefore, for you to be assertive and ask for clarification of any terms or statements that you don't understand. Do not be afraid to ask your doctor for an explanation in English, not in medical jargon.
If you find it too intimidating to ask your doctor for clarification, it may help to keep in mind that you are a consumer in the health-care arena. There is competition for your business. You have a right to be well informed, and if your current doctor is unwilling or unable to provide that clarification, you can take your health-care business elsewhere.
If you seem to forget all your questions when you're at the doctor's office, or if you don't come up with questions until after you've left the office, it may help for you to sit down and write out your questions when you're at home. Try as best you can to ask specific questions rather than general ones such as "What's going to happen to me?" When you make your next appointment, tell the nurse or receptionist that you have some questions that you need to discuss with the doctor, so that time can be allotted for this. Then take your list of questions with you to the appointment and check them off as you get them answered.
Take notes if you can, since it's easy to forget multiple explanations and instructions when you walk out the office door. You may even find it helpful to bring someone -- a friend or relative -- with you so that they can listen and take notes for you. Since you are likely to be dealing with a variety of emotions as well as with the sometimes complicated information that your doctor is relaying about your condition, having a support person with you can be truly helpful. Also, be sure to ask your doctor if he or she has any patient-information sheets or brochures about your disease that you can take home with you for reference.
The information is there if you make the effort to get it. It can be the key to fighting fear and feeling as though you are getting back into the driver's seat. However, there is a normal amount of depression that is associated with a diagnosis like arthritis. In the next section, we will offer you some pointers to fight off those negative thoughts.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.