Social media has opened a whole new world for patients. Now, information about disease is readily accessible and available to everyone. Certainly, there are issues with reliability and accuracy of internet sources and this can create uneasiness and misunderstanding for both physician and patient.
However, the internet can also provide many new therapeutic possibilities. In particular, online support groups, twitter chats and blogging can provide a positive outlet for patients suffering with disease. Today, I want to focus on one of these Internet opportunities: the patient blog. Recently, a online article on iHealth Beat explored this concept of patient blogging and its benefits.
Just as commonly experienced in the climax and resolution phase of Greek tragedy, writing a blog about one’s experience as a patient can be cathartic. Patients with chronic illnesses or with a new diagnosis are often confused, frightened and angry. Numerous studies in the psychiatry literature have demonstrated that journaling or writing about one’s feelings and experiences can have a very positive effect on emotional health. Journaling has been shown to have several other unexpected benefits as well. In the age of the Internet and social media, journaling is now called blogging. Blogging can be a private posting (where only you or those you approve can see) or can be made public for anyone to see.
Blogging can have many benefits that are very similar to journaling. From a pure neuro-biological standpoint, while you are occupied with writing, the analytical left brain is engaged in the writing process. This allows the right brain to be free to feel, emote and create. In this setting, you are able to better understand yourself and the world around you. Specifically, there are four distinct benefits that patients can receive from blogging that I believe are worth mentioning:
1. Blogging helps to clarify thoughts and feelings. Often writing down our feelings provides a way for us to better organize our thoughts. Blogging can help patients with terminal illnesses better understand their disease and how they are reacting or adjusting to the challenges of the diagnosis and/or therapy.
2. Blogging helps you to get to know yourself better. Writing routinely will help you better understand what makes you happy and content. Conversely, writing will also help you better understand what people and situations upset you. This can be incredibly important when battling chronic disease. It is important that you are able to spend more time doing the things that make you happy and are able to identify and avoid things that are upsetting.
3. Blogging helps you to reduce stress. Patients who receive a diagnosis of a major illness or who suffer daily with the challenges of chronic disease often have a great deal of anger and resentment. It is human nature to ask questions such as “why me?”. Blogging about angry feelings can be a positive and therapeutic release of emotion. It allows for the writer to return from the blog more centered and better equipped to deal with negative emotion
4. Blogging helps unlock your creativity. Often we approach problem solving from a purely left brain analytical perspective. This is how we are taught throughout our education to attack problems in math and science in school. However, some problems are only solved through creativity and through the use of a more right brain approach. Writing allows the right brain to creatively attack problems while the analytical side of the brain is occupied with the mechanics of the writing process.
I believe that blogging can be just as important as medication compliance in patients with chronic disease. The diagnosis of a chronic disease can produce a great deal of stress and emotional angst. Patients who are able to deal with negative feelings and emotions in a more positive way are better suited to tackling their health problems.
As mentioned above, blogging has many benefits on our emotional health. By dealing with negative emotions and unlocking creativity, we are better able to deal with the realities of chronic disease and more effectively interact with friends and loved ones. I encourage everyone–patient, physician, family member or friend–to begin to blog. I expect that the health benefits of writing will be well worth the time in front of the computer screen and the insights that you may discover about yourself may be be life changing.
Kevin R. Campbell is a cardiac electrophysiologist who blogs at his self-titled site, Dr. Kevin R. Campbell, MD.