Ignorance is bliss…maybe

One of the less frequent visitors came by the center for the first time in several months. She is a 29 year mother with three kids and an alcoholic, abusive husband. She was diagnosed in 2004 and the results from her analysis have always been normal but always at the lowest end of the range. She has seen four of the doctors at the clinic who have all told her that she should start treatment so that she can continue to stay healthy. She avoids starting treatment because living in denial feels safer and allows her to put off making serious decisions about her life.

Denial provides a safe haven from having to take responsibility for controlling one’s behavior, especially as it relates to health. Denial is also a powerful obstacle to many social marketing and health communication campaigns. Looking at health communication efforts targeted to prevention of skin cancer provide some clear examples. Aversion to skin cancer prevention stems from a number of obstacles: changed beauty norms, etc. Although sunscreen usage has increased, a significant amount of people continue to indulge in unsafe behaviors such as tanning beds and spending time outdoors without using sunscreen.

Predicting the degree of behavior change can influenced by how the message is framed or portrayed. Framing in health communication generally occurs through a loss frame or a gain frame. A loss frame focuses on what the person loses by not implementing the suggested behavior, while a gain frame focuses on what an individual stands to gain as a result of implementing the suggested behavior. I believe that all this patient hears when a doctor suggests starting treatment is what she stands to lose: her relatively good state of health. I wonder what would happen if she were aware of what she could gain: a sense of control and piece of mind from knowing that the infection is under control.

Is there any problem that you have been avoiding? What would happen if you changed the way you framed the problem? You might be surprised what will motivate you to take action.

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2 comments so far

  1. Jason on

    Yes, that is very true. That woman is hurting herself by harboring that denial.

    This isn’t the same as her situation, but I could probably beat my laziness if I was able to focus on the time and progress I’m losing by it.

  2. Vanessa on

    This is a thought provoking question. I wouldn’t really call it a problem, rather a decision that needs to be made. It will be life changing for sure and perhaps I just need to re-frame how I am looking at the situation. As far as the sun? I am a sort of sun screen Nazi. Mine is SPF 95 and I wear it everyday. It goes on along with my make up and deo to be sure I never forget!


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