Impatience slows healing

Everything takes time. A drug can do one of four things: speed up healing, slow it down, create a side-effect, or be completely ineffective. A patient’s emotional attitude toward a therapeutic procedure can also affect its outcome in time or severity.

We are living in a very fast-paced world. With the push of a button, you can have mashed potatoes, frozen food for dinner, or coffee with your breakfast in a matter of minutes.

Healing, however, does not comport with this hit and run approach. While physicians continue to tell us that a fracture should heal in from 6-8 weeks, they qualify their prognosis by saying that individual healing time varies. The most compelling determinant is patience.

We are conditioned to be impatient by the drug commercials we see on television promising fast relief from symptoms. What we are not told is that every person has a different degree of tolerance with regard to patience.

Our ability to wait in line is taxed every day at the supermarket, DMV, bank, and local post office. Those of us blessed with the ability to calmly wait our turn have difficulty understanding why some people become unglued when they have to wait more than five minutes. Some become so frustrated that they enter into a accusatory verbal confrontation with a clerk or salesperson.

Every disease or injury has what is called an incubation time — the time it takes from the onset of symptoms to its resolution. Once the symptoms appear, impatient victims begin to challenge the healing time. Patients who display this tendency suffer from what has been referred to as a “destination affliction,” an obsessive preoccupation with the amount of time it takes for an illness or injury to heal.

When an impatient patient is being treated for anything ranging from a broken ankle to Lyme’s disease, they consistently display degrees of anxiety. Regardless of what they are told by their physician, they always expect a quick recovery. As the resolution time increases, these patients may experience a rapid heart beat, headache, elevated blood pressure, dizziness, shortness of breath, or an increase in muscle tension.

Competent physicians take into consideration their patient’s ability or willingness to wait. They appreciate that a high fever or severe pain can precipitate impatience. Sensitive physicians, detecting this anxiety, can tactfully reassure them that everything is going well and there is nothing about which to worry.

Because healing involves a number of different biologic processes, impatient patients are encouraged to exercise restraint and try to find a physician whose reputation involves being patient with patients.

Professor Eisenberg was born in New York City and now lives in Belleair Bluffs. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. His career consisted of teaching interpersonal/intercultural communication, public speaking, organizational communication, nonverbal communication, group dynamics, and persuasion at four major universities including Pace University and Manhattanville College in New York. His publications include 19 textbooks on various aspects of communication. Send comments to: aeisenberg3@tampabay.rr.com.

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