Emily C. Deans, M.D.
I became a doctor, in part, because my mother has allergies. She lives in a section of the country where a good percentage of people suffer with some sort of seasonal stuffy nose and sore throat, but her allergies are particularly bad. And as many times as she has been to a doctor, allergist or otherwise, and as many nasal sprays and allergy shots as she has tried over the years, nothing has helped her to be symptom free. In my training as a doctor, I learned all sorts of ways to diagnose illness, and how to treat life-threatening symptoms. We can stop a heart attack in its tracks if it is caught in time. I can tell you with a fair amount of certainty that your headache is not caused by a brain tumor, once the appropriate testing is done. But I wanted to go further, to help the headache sufferer and the allergy sufferer and anyone who has a chronic symptom live a better, more content life. Fully thirty percent of the population suffers from chronic and debilitating symptoms that respond only partially to conventional treatments. Dr. Arthur Barsky and I conceived this book, based on his Harvard Medical School research, in order to reach those vast numbers of people in a way that conventional medicine hadn’t been able to do. Feeling Better is my way of helping my mother deal with her stuffy nose and allergy headaches, and to give some help for so many of my patients who cope with their chronic symptoms.
Arthur J. Barsky, M.D.
As a physician, I’ve always been struck by the wide range of reactions people have when they get sick. Some people become invalids—they suffer terribly with their symptoms and become disabled by them; others maintain a positive outlook, cope remarkably well, and lead full and satisfying lives. What secrets have these good copers discovered, and how could we teach these skills to others? This question is so important that I decided to devote my professional career to it. I chose psychiatry as my medical specialty and have spent more than 25 years working with patients who are coping with chronic medical conditions and chronic symptoms. It turns out that the patients with good coping skills have found that their suffering depends not just on their medical condition as a doctor judges it, but on what they think about their condition, how they feel about it, and how they react to it. I compiled what I learned in my clinical work and in my teaching of medical trainees and then gathered these observations together into a formal treatment program. I then tested this treatment in a large, five-year, research study. The results showed that patients did indeed find the program helpful. But I never thought about how this program could be made accessible directly to the public until Emily suggested in a supervisory session that we put the material into a book for a general audience. And so Feeling Better was born.
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