Stop Being Your Symptoms and Start Being Yourself

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Do you suffer from ongoing pain or chronic medical symptoms such as fatigue, lower back pain, arthritis, acid indigestion, insomnia, or migraines? Do they interfere with your family time or your work? Have you been forced to give up activities that you enjoy?

Thirty percent of the population suffers from illnesses that respond only partially to conventional medicine. But this doesn't mean that there is no relief in sight.

Dr. Arthur Barsky, a ...

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Overview

Do you suffer from ongoing pain or chronic medical symptoms such as fatigue, lower back pain, arthritis, acid indigestion, insomnia, or migraines? Do they interfere with your family time or your work? Have you been forced to give up activities that you enjoy?

Thirty percent of the population suffers from illnesses that respond only partially to conventional medicine. But this doesn't mean that there is no relief in sight.

Dr. Arthur Barsky, a pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine, has found that changing the way you think about your illness can have a remarkable effect on how you experience your symptoms. At Harvard Medical School, he developed "Stop Being Your Symptoms and Start Being Yourself," a breakthrough six-week program that is scientifically tested, unique, and simple to learn. Through hundreds of exercises, worksheets, and patient examples, it teaches patients to master the five psychological factors that contribute to chronic symptoms.

You may not be able to completely eliminate your symptoms. But it is possible to control them rather than letting them control you. So stop being your symptoms—and start living the life you deserve.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061121043
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/24/2006
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur J. Barsky, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of psychiatric research at Brigham and Women's Hospital. He is the author of Worried Sick and is a widely recognized authority in his field. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Emily C. Deans, M.D., is a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychiatrist in the Boston community. Dr. Deans is highly experienced with chronic symptoms sufferers. She lives in Norfolk, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

Stop Being Your Symptoms and Start Being Yourself


By Arthur Barsky

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Arthur Barsky
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0061121045

Chapter Two

Your Health Belongs to You

Before we outline the six-week program to stop being your symptoms and start being yourself, it is important for you to see the bigger picture -- that you are not alone in living with symptoms that resist medical treatment, continue to distress you, and erode the quality of your life. Many Americans face the very same problem, and the suffering these symptoms cause seems to have been worsening over the last few decades. In this chapter we will examine how social, historical, and psychological forces can make your bodily symptoms more troublesome. Armed with this knowledge, you will then be in the best position to take advantage of the six-week program that follows. You can take control of your health, rather than being a prisoner of symptoms.

Doing Better and Feeling Worse1

Doing Better

Modern medicine has astounding powers to detect and cure disease, powers hardly imaginable just a few years ago. We have techniques to open clogged arteries and reverse heart attacks. We can reattach severed limbs and surgically correct fetal heart malformations while the fetus is still in the womb. We have created artificial skin and hearts, kidneys and cartilage. Tiny cameras can be swallowed to photograph the insideof the stomach and intestines. Special viruses have been modified so that they can insert new DNA to replace the faulty genes that are responsible for some inherited diseases.

As a result of all this progress over the last fifty years, the death rates from most major killers, including heart disease, stroke, and several forms of cancer, have declined dramatically. Deaths from heart disease have fallen by 40 percent since 1970. Breast cancer mortality is 20 percent lower than it was in 1990. AIDS is no longer the imminent death sentence that it once was, and patients routinely live comfortably for more than a decade following the diagnosis. According to all the major indices of collective health, we are indeed an extraordinarily healthy society. Life expectancy is at an all-time high, and the gaps between men and women and between whites and blacks are narrowing. The average American lived 47.3 years in 1900, 68.2 years in 1950, and an astonishing 76.9 years in 2000.

These exciting triumphs over lethal diseases, however, have had a perverse effect: they make our everyday ailments seem worse.2 Medicine's new therapeutic powers have actually made it harder to live with the less severe, chronic illnesses that continue to defy medical science. We can save premature babies who are born no bigger than the size of your hand, but we still can't prevent children from getting recurrent ear infections. We can characterize the microscopic, cellular changes that come with aging, but we can't prevent the dry skin and the insomnia that accompany it.

Our astonishing medical advances serve to underscore our more limited progress against chronic illnesses, degenerative disease, aging, and the wear and tear of daily life. Do you suffer from migraines? Lower back pain? Ever miss a day of work due to premenstrual pain or allergies or heartburn? Despite medicine's conquest of many diseases, you know from personal experience that plenty of illnesses remain to afflict us. We need only think of ourselves or our families, our neighbors or our coworkers, to realize how prevalent are fatigue, asthma, osteoarthritis, constipation, memory problems, and the like. These are all conditions that are indisputably real, but can prove very resistant to medical treatment.

Despite the best medical care, these symptoms continue or recur, and can come to play too prominent a role in our lives. They're uncomfortable, distressing, perhaps embarrassing; they impair our leisure activities, sex lives, social plans, or productivity at work. In one typical survey, 86 percent of the respondents reported having at least one bothersome symptom.3 Fatigue, for example, is among the most common and troubling of symptoms. In survey after survey, between 17 and 19 percent of adults report being bothered by "prolonged," "substantial," or "chronic" fatigue.4 Lower back pain is another ailment so common among us as to be almost universal. A full 80 percent of us have been troubled by back pain over the course of our lifetimes, and 25 percent of us have experienced it in the recent past.5 In fact, one of the most difficult parts about studying treatments for back pain is finding experimental control subjects who have never had back pain! You are certainly not alone in struggling with chronic symptoms that modern medicine can't cure outright.

These symptoms are serious enough to prompt medical attention. In 1998 there were 61.3 million doctor visits for colds and sore throats alone, and only 61 million visits for high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary heart disease combined.6 All of this doctoring occurs despite the common knowledge that a cold will get better in a week if you go to the doctor -- and will last seven days if you don't.

How can we be doing better and feeling worse? This paradox is partly the result of medical progress itself. Many of the diseases that used to cause sudden or untimely death -- such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and childhood infections -- can now be prevented or cured. But our medical progress has been more limited when it comes to chronic diseases and the frailties that come with a longer life. Thus the people saved from premature, early death due to infections, strokes, and heart attacks now live long enough to develop Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, and cancer. While the odds of surviving a heart attack have vastly improved, the survivors are often left to struggle with angina or congestive heart failure, conditions that produce chronic symptoms and disability that can't be cured outright or treated away.

So the result of these medical advances is that while they enable us to live longer, the proportion of life spent in ill health has actually increased. Our dramatic gains in lifesaving treatments have increased the proportion of people living with chronic ailments. Dementia is a vivid and omnipresent example. The incidence of dementia is rising because we can now treat the pneumonia, kidney failure, and heart attacks that used to end people's lives before they grew old enough to become demented.



Continues...

Excerpted from Stop Being Your Symptoms and Start Being Yourself by Arthur Barsky Copyright © 2006 by Arthur Barsky. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
Foreword     xi
A New Way to Think About Symptoms     1
Introductions     3
Your Health Belongs to You     18
The Six-Week Program to Stop Being Your Symptoms and Start Being Yourself     57
Week 1-Shift Focus from Your Symptoms to Yourself     59
Week 2-Learn How to Rethink Your Symptoms     91
Week 3-Change the Situation, Lessen Your Symptom     119
Week 4-Undo the Damage of Unproductive Behaviors     151
Week 5-Brighten the Mood, Help the Symptom     186
Week 6-Lessons in Coping Well     213
General Principles for Living and Coping Well     239
Living Well Through Nutrition and Exercise     241
Four Final Principles     280
Notes     292
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