People react differently when experiencing medical symptoms. There are those who deny any symptoms are present. Unless the symptoms are overwhelming, they use the psychological mechanism of denial so they don't have to address the issue of the symptoms they are experiencing.

People react differently when experiencing medical symptoms.


There are those who deny any symptoms are present. Unless the symptoms are overwhelming, they use the psychological mechanism of denial so they don't have to address the issue of the symptoms they are experiencing.


For example, they explain the chest pain they have as probably due to a strained muscle. This is reinforced when the discomfort goes away after an hour. When it returns the next day while walking up stairs, their reasoning is that the strained muscle just hasn't completely healed.


A major reason why people use denial is because they are fearful of what the doctor will find. This fear frequently prevents them from even seeing a physician for an annual physical examination.


Somewhat similar to the denial, are the "wait a whilers." When a symptom appears, they want to wait a while to see if the symptoms will get better or worse before they take any action.


The majority of times this is a reasonable approach because usually the symptom abates and does not represent anything serious.


However, "wait a whilers" need to be selective because some symptoms, such as the above mentioned chest pain or early signs of a stroke need to be acted upon immediately.


Another category of slow responders to medical symptoms are people who don't think they have the time to address the issue.


They reason if they go to a hospital emergency room they will be there for hours (most likely true), nothing will be found, and they wasted a great deal of time.


The majority of times this approach is reasonable, but again you have to be selective.


The complete opposite of the denial individual is the hypochondriac. To the hypochondriac every symptom represents a serious illness. These people are steady visitors to the doctor's office or emergency departments.


There are various psychological reasons why people are hypochondriacs but the end result is that they make many unnecessary visits to health care providers, thus further taxing an already overwhelmed medical care system.


It is not always easy for the average person to know how to manage some type of medical symptom.


The most logical approach is, if concerned, call your doctor for advice. Today, this doesn't always work because of the road blocks that are set up in many doctor's offices that make it difficult to talk to a live person.


The medical profession must find better ways to help individuals determine when it is, and when it isn't necessary to seek medical care.


Not easy to do when people respond so differently when faced with medical symptoms.


Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.