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Question
Posted by: whatnot | 2003/02/24

Weight loss - person afraid to see Doctor

Dear CyberDoc ,
My 49 year old brother has suddenly started losing weight. Too much of it. Far too much of it. For 4 months now.
He is petrified of going for an examination. How can I convince him to go see his doctor ????? What should I say to him? Its almost as if he is frightenend of being given a "Death Sentence".
PLease advise.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Dear whatnot,
This is quite a common problem, sadly. People with whatever symptom, which they fear may be due to some dread disease ( Cancer, AIDS, whatever ) are often scared about seeing a doctor, for fear of what they may be told.
But the situation is clear.
Firstly, they may be suffering from a disorder which CAN be easily remedied, and are enduring all this anxiety needlessly ; and can only find out and get it cleared up, by seeing a doctor.
Secondly, there ae many disorders, including cancer, which can be cured --- IF they are discovered early enough, and if treatment starts early enough. Delay can let a disorder develop from something treatable into something not treatable.
Thirdly, even if the disorder causing the alarming symptom isn't entirely curable, it may well be ossible to control it, so as to allow someone to live a much longer and more comfortable life than if they try to pretend it isn't there.
and Finally, even supposing it is one of the dread diseases, and perhaps now gone beyond the stage at which it is likely to be curable. There is still a great deal that can be usefully achieved --- the disorder can usually be slowed, at least partially controlled --- and much that is really valuable can be achieved in preventing pain and reducing other symptoms.
And above all, the continuing pain of the uncertainty can be ended, enabling the person to plan whatever time they may have ahead ( and it could be years ) as wisely and satisfyingly as possible.
Trying to ignore the very real possibility of some serous illness, has no adantages at all. It's not possible to ignore it, and the constant nagging of the uncertainty is very unpleasant ; and one is refusing the possibility of cure, control, or at least palliation, and insisting on getting the worst possible outcome for whatever illness it may be.
Sometimes, people have a strange sort of magical thought --- fearing that whatever may be wrong, it won't be able to cause any real mischief, until a doctor names it. In factm the reverse is true --- you cannot properly cope with anything, until you know as exactly as possible, what it is, and what your choices are.

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