The Elusive Diagnosis: When Dis-ease Leads to Disease

If you’re agonizing over a number of symptoms for which your physician cannot find a cause, here’s a fresh perspective for taking a positive step toward a healthy future.

The following scenario is far more commonplace than you might imagine. An individual presents to a personal physician for the new onset of a series of vague yet troublesome symptoms. After listening to the patient’s history, the doctor performs a comprehensive work-up – a seemingly complex array of diagnostic tests that often includes blood work, x-rays, specialized scans or at times, biopsies. Upon anxiously returning for a follow-up to discuss the results, it is disclosed that no definable cause is apparent despite progressive overall worsening.

Frustration builds.

Numerous specialty referrals and additional tests fail to reveal a clear-cut diagnosis, as symptoms progressively build to the point of worsening disability. After several unrevealing medical visits, the patient, now experiencing great difficulty performing routine activities of daily living, is subsequently seen by a team of specialists at a major tertiary care referral center. Despite countless interviews, poking and prodding, there is no answer.

Disappointment rapidly sets in.

A referral to a psychiatrist is eventually scheduled. Making the appointment is uncomfortable at best. However, the yet-undiagnosed condition is unrelenting. With great reluctance, the patient presents for a few interviews which again fail to establish an objective diagnosis. As a last resort, the latest antidepressant is prescribed.

Despair becomes overwhelming.

Side effects prompt several medication changes and additions. After months of what is perceived as experimentation, the only routine remaining contact with the medical profession is a monthly visit to the pharmacy.

Anxiety, fatigue and sleeplessness take their toll.

Despite listening to the latest suggestions by good-natured friends, browsing the internet, joining chat groups, taking copious amounts of natural supplements and visiting alternative practitioners, disability without rationale persists.

A sense of failure permeates every action.

If you’ve reached this point or know someone who has, perhaps it’s time to consider another approach. Assuming you’ve been evaluated by several capable and caring physicians, and have undergone an extensive series of medical work-ups which have failed to reveal a diagnosis, (despite agreement among qualified physicians who have taken appropriate time and interest in you), this may be your opportunity to develop a positive healthier perspective by initiating some important detective work.

Consider starting by taking time to replay your life. Begin focusing on the few years before the onset of your symptoms and search for any source of personal conflict or unhappiness which you may have experienced. Don’t be afraid to journal about those painful issues – the one’s you try so desperately to forget each day. Perhaps they mask the most important clues. What you might be trying to forget may actually hold the key to the breakthrough you need in order to move on with your life.

Also consider any ongoing conflict that may have evolved at or around the onset of your symptoms. Do not readily disregard issues that may have arisen shortly after your symptoms began. Even relatively commonplace symptoms associated with benign illnesses, injuries or infections can progressively build once a conflict develops. Take time to ask yourself what you would change about your life (apart from your symptoms) if you had the chance. And finally … realize you can!
“How?” you might ask. Simply try a new tact. Realize there’s nothing to lose by taking time to defocus or ignore your symptoms (YES – ignore them!) while changing something else in your life. Why not resolve a conflict, repair a relationship, or put back into your life what is missing? Be creative and think out of the box. Even if you’re convinced your symptoms are not going to change, know that your life amounts to far more than the illness you are facing. Reestablishing a sense of internal balance has the potential to reduce pain, alleviate symptoms and promote well-being.

And as you strive to move forward in your journey through life, even if your symptoms appear to persist, remain vigilant of the toll they continue to take. For when you build upon a new sense of purpose, you just might realize you are actually able to do more than you previously imagined.

While you still may be convinced you’re experiencing an incurable illness, the diagnosis of which all your physicians have missed, consider the possibility that taking positive steps in other areas will result in meaningful personal gains. Through this approach, many who are now symptom-free have painstakingly discovered that dis-ease leads to disease
Mind Over Matter!

© 2000 Barry Bittman,
MD all rights reserved

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Written by Barry Bittman MD

Explore Wellness in 2021