Diagnosis ~ medical terminology

Medical terminology can be baffling to those seeking help.  Once more I urge those in this position to describe their symptoms, and to keep an open mind about the terms that doctors use in response.  I encourage you to focus on the access your doctors diagnosis gives to help, be it medication, counselling, subsidies, or whatever else is available.  

Here are the medical terms I've come to better understand after extended periods of bafflement:

Depression equals, well, just about anything: 
This diagnosis seems to be used as a general term for emotional and mental dysfunction over a wide range.  It's a diagnosis which is readily accepted by bureaucrats as well as the medical profession.
     For years I resisted this diagnosis of my condition; while I do see this as one element of it I don't see it as the primary one, but regardless of my point of view, accepting this diagnosis has given me access to a lot of help I wouldn't otherwise have had. 

Shock equals trauma: 
The medical term for shock seems to be trauma.  Shock that results from being subjected to physical violence or sudden and unexpected bereavement is widely understood to be deeply distressing.  Shock that results from uncovering deceit and the consequent loss of trust or faith is more complex, and often baffling to bystanders, possibly even to those to whom it happens.  It was for me.
     I knew I was suffering from shock, trauma, or whatever else you choose to call it, but health professionals routinely responded with the familiar hold-all, depression.  So be it. 

Burnout equals Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - or depression!
Burnout is not accepted as a medical condition here in New Zealand, and the legal ramifications are far-reaching: without this recognition sickness benefits cannot be obtained and health insurers won't come to the party at all, never mind the medical profession, which leaves the sufferer high and dry.  Until this is established doctors must call it by another name.  Alternatives I've across are Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/M.E. or yes, here we go again, depression, or both. 
     My doctor cheerfully declares that I have both, which in his view isn't surprising because "fifty percent of those with M.E. also suffer from depression".  M.E. is a baffling illness identifiable only by it's symptoms, and definitions vary.  However, I have read one profile that does fit my condition and its inception very closely indeed, so maybe my doctor is correct. 
     There seems to be no literature at all which identifies the physiological components of burnout, which is immensely frustrating.  This is in contrast to studies done on the brain function of trauma victims.  I'm quite clear that my condition is neurological whereas at present burnout is regarded as psychological.  I defy anyone who has experienced severe burnout to agree with that fully; partially certainly, but fully, no! 

Doctors now consider that depression and anxiety often occur together or are closely related.  Treatments offered may be the same or specific to one or the other.  Chronic anxiety may be hard to identify in our own personalities if it is ingrained and habitual. 
     This was certainly the case for me!  I could see it in other members of my family but not in myself, until its sudden absence (temporarily) when trialling a new medication.  While the medication proved unsuitable in other ways it did make me realise how chronic my tensions were, which I could have read in my habitual defensiveness.  I wish doctors had raised this as a possibility when my illness was acute, when it could have been really helpful.
     If you think this may be an issue for you and your doctor hasn't already raised it, you may wish to do so yourself.

Panic attacks:
Believe it or not I experienced these for some time without having the least idea what was going on!  I knew other people had them and that treatment was available but doctors never suggested this to me.  I worried that I might have developed a heart condition, and no wonder.
     A panic attack can seem like a heart attack: the heart may race or thump, and breathing becomes, or seems to become, difficult.  The hyperventilation that can result may cause tingling and faintness.  It's perfectly natural to panic as a result!  Oh dear! 
     I must say I was gratified to see that Jack Nicholson's character in the movie "Something's gotta give", mistakes these symptoms in his convalescence following a genuine heart attack, and the doctor has to explain to him what the difference is.

All this emphasises the importance of describing symptoms adequately to your doctor, and doing what you can to get proper medical advice and information; also the importance of conducting your own study so that you can be your own best expert. 
     If your condition is chronic or long term, you are likely to be seeing a number of specialists.  You are the connecting link and likely to have the best overview.

I'm creating separate entries for some of these conditions so that informational books, articles and links can be usefully placed together.  Refer to the subject index at the right hand side of the page for easy access.

To go to the next article click this link:
Treatment ~ it's about looking after you

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