Risks and Limitations
All forms of medicine carry risks. The main risk in behavioral medicine is its potential for psychosocial morbidity, usually in the form of self-blame. If the patient has unrealistic expectations about what they believe should happen in using such techniques, and they don't get the results they expect, they may conclude, "I must be doing it wrong," and perhaps have a sense of failure or inadequacy.
The fact is that one can do everything right and still have symptoms. These techniques are a contribution to a comprehensive treatment approach overtime, but are not curative in themselves. The degree of the contribution will vary from one person to the next, but there are no guarantees. Care providers need to address this fact directly with PWC's who are using such approaches, to assure that they have a realistic perspective.
Another risk is over-reliance on these approaches at the exclusion of other forms of medicine. It bears repeating that behavioral medicine is complementary to other effective forms of treatment, not exclusive.
One limitation is that many methods require an ability to sit quietly and, in some cases, focus the mind on the process. Some patients suffering from extremes of agitation, cognitive dysfunction, or debilitating fatigue may at times have difficulty following through with a routine of regular practice. Those who do best are able to sustain a regular practice and achieve cumulative benefits over time.
Clinical experience indicates that PWC's who use behavioral self help strategies in this complementary way have better medical outcomes, and improved self-efficacy in managing many symptoms, than those who rely solely on medical intervention alone.
The challenge of living with a serious illness for which there is no medical cure provokes us to explore all options. There is a real danger in "false despair" if one believes oneself to be powerless.
Until a medical cure is discovered, there is a great deal PWC's can do to help themselves manage symptoms, improve their quality of life, and promote their well-being. Kept in proper perspective, behavioral medicine can make a significant contribution to a comprehensive approach.
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