Throughout this section we looked at the behaviour that we can associate with health and illness, as we explored two stages throughout the process of becoming ill. In stage two of the process we look at how the symptoms develop, these can be physical, social and psychological. Whereas in stage three of the process it discusses more of the interpretation and perception of these symptoms as people need to view these problems as a health related issue because they can be influenced by family, culture and personal experience.
According to Weller (2009) we can define a symptom as an indication of a disease perceived by the patient, whereas a sign is objective evidence of a disease or dysfunction and can be recognised. An example of this is a raised temperature which is classed as a sign but needs interpretation as to whether it is a sign of illness or as a result of exercise. We also covered the models of symptom perception in relation to health and illness behaviour, the first being the attention model in which we receive multiple internal and external cues which can compete for our attention. However, the cognitive – perceptual model is the way we interpret the physical symptoms in the light of our knowledge base. Most personalities tend to have fewer symptoms as people can sometimes cope without noticing these differences.
The theory we covered amongst this topic was Goffman 1963 (as cited by Green 2009) in relation to how he interpreted stigma. Stigma can be defined as any mark of a condition or defect of a disease, this can be applied to any physical or social quality of a person that can be perceived by others as a negative attribute. Goffman classified stigma into three broad groups, he identified these as firstly physical stigma for example facial scarring.
The second being personal or character stigma in relation to drug use and sexuality, the final one is social stigma in which it can relate to those who belong to a particular group or ethnic minority. We also covered enacted and felt stigma in regards to how they differ, enacted stigma is when the stigma is experienced in acts of persecution and felt stigma can be feared by the individual to avoid potential difficulties.
I believe that stigmatisation has a role in medicine as labelling can occur throughout practise, which can eventually lead to distress of the patient involved throughout their treatment. We can improve stigma in practise through getting rid of the issue, for example if someone had a deformity we would now be able to reduce this by form of surgery, which in turn would reduce stigma from occurring in the future.
Overall, to summarise health and illness behaviour is that there are many ways in which we view our behaviour in regards to the way we act in practice whether it is using the role of stigma or introducing labelling. However, we should reduce this through decreasing the chance of stigma occurring through interpreting the decisions we make in practise.
Green, G. (2009) The end of stigma: changes in the social experience of long term illness (1st Edition) Oxon: Routledge.
Weller, B. F (2009) Baillere’s Nurses’ Dictionary: For nurses and health care workers (25th Edition) London: Elsevier.