illness behavior

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Syn: sickness behavior. Illness, especially when it is chronic, obliges people to seek help, placing them in a dependent position with family and health care workers. In doing so, people adopt a sick role. This is a normal consequence of ill health and may facilitate the work of those involved in care of the sick, but it can erode autonomy, infantilize adults, and put them in a position of dependency and obedience to the sometimes arbitrary orders of everyone in the health care hierarchy, from eminent specialists to teenage receptionists and hospital porters. It can be prolonged, even perpetuated, and in these cases it becomes a harmful complication of disease and disability that retards recovery. Health care workers need to be aware of this phenomenon and avoid its undesirable effects on the outcome of health care. See also health behavior.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology.

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