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Showing posts from July, 2014

The Illusion of Control

I think almost everyone wants to feel in control of their life.  When we feel out of control it naturally can lead to an array of negative emotions - anxiety, irritability, sadness, panic, or depression to name a few.  Being diagnosed with a chronic medical illness throws the idea of "control" into a bit of a tailspin.  Our body has decided that it's going to do something against the status quo, and sets a new standard of operations, if you will, that doesn't jive with how things should be.  We do our best to reverse this tide, but it's like the disease does everything it can to get back to what it thinks is the new normal.  What I like to call the Dr. Ian Malcolm effect.

In the chronic illness world, the word "control" comes up a lot, doesn't it?

Take this medication to control your symptoms. Is your disease under control, yet? You've got to fight to control your [insert disease here]. Why can't I get this flare up under control?
This is a pre…

PTSD & Chronic Illness

Most people know posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as being commonly seen in war veterans, survivors of a natural disaster, sexual abuse survivors, motor vehicle accidents, etc. Little public attention however, is given to PTSD in chronic illness (CI) patients.  Our summer intern, Jessica Naftaly, writes about how experiencing a chronic illness can trigger PTSD in some people.

Signs of PTSD 
Unexpected, sudden, traumatic events related to a CI can be scary. According to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V), a few of these events include waking up while being under anesthesia; traumatic experience in the ICU; anaphylactic shock; and traumatic surgery. Not everyone who experiences these events has PTSD, however it is important to keep the signs of PTSD in mind after a traumatic event.

These signs after a traumatic event include:

• Unwanted memories/dreams/flashbacks involving the event
• Psychological/physical reactions to stimuli that remi…

In the Spotlight: Myasthenia Gravis

I'm proud to say that this is the 160th blog post for Oak Park Behavioral Medicine. This post is also the next part of our "Rare Disease of the Month" blogathon for 2014. This month, we highlight Myasthenia Gravis. This disease is not easy to pronounce (the pronunciation is "my-us-THEE-nee-uh GRAY-vis"). The disease is characterized by weakness and rapid fatigue of any of the muscles under your voluntary control and is caused by a breakdown in the communication between nerves and muscles.

Myasthemia Gravis (MG) has a Latin and Greek origin and literally means "grave muscle weakness." MG is an autoimmune neuromuscular disease that can affect any voluntary muscle. It most frequently affects muscles that control eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, and swallowing. The onset of the disorder may be sudden and symptoms often are not immediately recognized as myasthenia gravis. Without getting too technical, the immune system of a person wi…

Humor and Chronic Illness

Anyone remember the show Candid Camera? I was an avid viewer as a kid, and once I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, I took advantage of their "Laughter Therapy" program. They send four videotapes of Candid Camera shows (hopefully DVDs now) one-by-one to patients with illnesses who can use a laugh. Now-a-days, there are so many options to watch comedy on-demand, whether it is on your DVR or streaming from a source like Netflix. Regardless of where you get your comedy, there is something therapeutic about laughing.

Recently I came across an article about how patients and doctors are drawing upon their experiences and writing comics about what they have been through. One artist who works in graphic medicine, Emily Haworth-Booth described her work eloquently. She said, "You can also manipulate and change something on the page, more easily than something that’s inside your own body. You can draw the pain, as a big black cloud perhaps, and then you can draw it again, but …

Let's Chat About Being "Eclectic"

One of the projects our summer intern is working on for us is compiling a list therapists who we can refer people to who aren't a good fit for our practice, whether it's the type of therapy they need (i.e. couples) or distance/scheduling issues.  Our goal is to have a nice list of therapists in our area as well as outside of Chicago that we can reference and give a few names of potential providers.  You may be thinking, can't they just get that from their insurance company?  Or a website like Psychology Today?

The short answer is yes, they can.

But who am I to write about short answers?

I gave our intern a few criteria to screen out therapists to contact: 1) they must specifically state they work with patients with chronic medical illness and/or chronic pain; 2) they cannot describe their therapy style as "eclectic."  I cannot stand the use of that word to describe an approach to psychotherapy, and I think when you're shopping around for a therapist you shou…