Are you sure you want to be well? The problem of ‘secondary gains’.

When a patient fails to recover even when receiving the best possible treatment, we must question whether they really want to get well. Why? Some people like being ill. They enjoy the attention that comes with it. It may be the only time anyone takes an interest in them.

When a person subconsciously depends on their illness for sympathy, security and so on, we allude to ‘secondary gains.’  Secondary gains are the hidden or not-so-hidden benefits of staying ill. They hinder recovery because without the desire to be well, healing forces remain dormant.

I once had a client whose ex-husband allowed her to stay in the former marital home until she recovered from a debilitating illness. Years of treatment had brought no improvement – but where was the incentive to get well? She would have lost her home, her welfare benefits and not least all that sympathy and attention.

If you are suffering from a chronic illness and have tried everything you know to get well, ask yourself if you really want to recover and why. Be honest with yourself. The answer may be revealing.


©David Lawrence Preston, 15.11.2016

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