How do values ​​and beliefs influence when treating an illness?

Values ​​and beliefs they form those styles of representation before the facts that people possess and which form the basis of everyone’s conduct, as much in everyday facts as in transcendent facts. In addition, they bring together the basic elements of his own philosophy of life.

The internalized values ​​and beliefs that a sick person, and even their loved ones, internalized, they will greatly influence the course and even the cure of a disease.

    The importance of values ​​and beliefs in the face of illness

    Values ​​and beliefs have differences in their usefulness: Beliefs offer some consistency between past and future events, while values ​​offer guidelines for dealing with unfamiliar situations by providing a benchmark for psychosocial adaptive functioning. .

    When a person is sick, they use the resources at their disposal to understand their situation, building on their beliefs and values.. For example, these beliefs would have an unshakeable influence on the acceptance of pharmacological treatment for a person with faith in science. However, they would negatively influence the acceptance of pharmacological treatment by a naturalist or skeptic with traditional medicine.

    The subjective feeling of family support is also an important element during the course of the disease, as it is the main core of social functioning.

    The locus of health control

    A person’s sense of control over their disease is very important and has to do with Rotter’s locus of control., To which Wallston et al. (1976) referred to as Health Control Locus.

    These researchers have relied on the idea that an individual’s potential to engage in a number of health-related behaviors increases if the subject believes that their actions can influence their health, and has to do with the extent to which l individual values ​​their health.

    The locus of health control it is not offered as a personality trait but as something specific to each health situation, and that is changing depending on the situation (Wallston, 1992). It can be internal or external:

    • The internal locus of control for health is the belief that one’s own health depends on or can be affected by one’s personal behavior, own actions or decisions.
    • The external locus of control for health involves the belief that health is most influenced by other people, death, luck or chance.

    Understanding the disease

    There are several studies that show that the way we understand the disease greatly influences its course. For example, in a study of patients with multiple sclerosis two negative factors and one positive have been isolated in the way of experiencing the disease (Mohr et al., 1999):

    • Demoralization (feeling of dependence, refusal to disturb loved ones, social isolation).
    • Deterioration in relationships with others (problems with the partner or relationship with others).
    • Find new benefits (more affection and support, meaning of life, loss of stress at work).

    The first two factors were directly related to anxiety, and the relationship deterioration factor did so with hostility as well..

    Pakenham (1999) also conducted a prospective study with this type of patient. He found a better prognosis in patients with less disability (less dependence) and who placed more importance on problem-solving strategies.


      In conclusion, numerous studies with patients suffering from different diseases suggest that the way in which the patient is understood, the consequences experienced and the psychological strategies of the patient in the face of his disease. are variables that significantly condition a psychological state that allows them to live while optimizing suffering to the maximum.

      Author: Susana Merino García, psychologist specializing in clinical and health psychology, member of BarnaPsico.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Vicente Pelechano (2008) Chronic diseases and psychology. Madrid. Ed: Clinic.
      • Wallston, KA and Wallston, B. 5. (1981). Sanitary place of the control staircase. In HM Lefcourt (Ed.), Research with the locus of construction control: Vol. 1. Evaluation methods (p. 189 or 243). New York: Academic Press.

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