When might staying calm be counterproductive?
Imagine this: A woman has some chest pain that makes her anxious. The woman's son is confident this is not a cardiac emergency because his mom has been admitted to the hospital multiple times for the same pain and been told her symptoms are from acid reflux. Thorough evaluation showed her heart and lungs are healthy.
Unfortunately, the more calm the son acts, the more agitated his mom gets. Now what?
If the patient's problem is emotional, all the logical explanations in the world may not help. And the son's ability to stay calm can p aradoxically
aradoxicallyincrease the mom's distress if she's thinking, “He’s so calm, I know he doesn’t understand (or care).”
Instead of flatly denying this might be an emergency, the son may want to try:
- Describing for his mom what her pain is like, so she knows he understands.
- Validating that this kind of pain can cause someone to feel anxious.
- Expressing his own (controlled)
distress over the patient's pain.
And then expressing confidence in working with the doctors to treat his Mom's pain and anxiety.
When a patient is emotional about a physical symptom, tending to both the physical and emotional pain helps the patient get good care.