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Coping With Terminal Diagnosis

The psychological challenges that confront us when we are exposed to catastrophic news can be seen in our faces and postures immediately. They are the mind's automatic attempt to integrate and assimilate the brutal reality of a traumatic event.

When we receive a shocking cancer diagnosis, our normal assumptions are ruptured, and our understanding of the "rules" of daily living are shocked and upset. Not only do we experience strong emotions in these times, we actually lose our balance psychologically. This loss of stability and psychological equilibrium are what we aim to regain as we experience the waves of emotions in the weeks and months that follow our exposure.

One important point to know and to remember is that the natural, common, and normal reactions that you experience may feel quite painful and may make you wonder if your mind is playing tricks on you. In the vast majority of cases, your reactions are normal, even if they are very strong and upsetting.

There are three kinds of experience that most people have:

Intrusion: this bad dreams or nightmares, anxiety or fear when exposed to reminders of the trauma, painful thoughts about what happened, and losing track of the present and feeling like what happened is happening again.

Avoidance: this takes the form of social isolation, not thinking or talking about the traumatic event, or using alcohol or drugs to avoid painful thoughts and feelings.
The natural course of coming to terms with a traumatic event involves oscillating between intrusion and avoidance. We flip back and forth over the course of minutes as well as over the course of days and weeks.

Hyperarousal: the third natural response comes from the "fight or flight response", which is part of our evolutionary heritage. This is manifest in disturbed sleep, trouble concentrating, being easily startled, and being overly watchful, on guard, and jumpy.

Here are some ways to cope :


Talk to those who want to and are able to listen. Be aware that there will be times when others aren't able to or don't want to listen.

Protect yourself from information overload

Turn away from the information overload -turn off the television or radio, and stop surfing the Internet for the latest bulletin. Our need for information is driven by our need to regain a sense of control, but when the world is still rocking, real control is not yet available.

Avoid 'escapist' behavior

Avoid alcohol, drugs, or immersion in work as a way to distract yourself. Better to deal with the painful feelings as they happen than to put them aside.

Time is the great healer for those exposed to trauma.

Submitted by:

Dr Laurence Magne

Dr Magne has been researching the origins and causes of disease and cancer for the past 25 years. Visit http://www.cancer-free-for-life.com to receive a FREE report on The 10 Ways to Cure Cancer Immediately. This article is available for reprint for your website and newsletter, provided that you maintain i


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