The Blogging Patient and Cyberspace: Unlimited Possibilities for Improving Health and Battling Disease

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.



3 responses to “The Blogging Patient and Cyberspace: Unlimited Possibilities for Improving Health and Battling Disease

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I’m in good health, thankfully. The only things I have that are slight bothers are high blood pressure, a moderate stomach issue, and arthritis. and I do take medication for all of this so it’s all controlled. However, I’ve been dealing with anxiety and light to moderate depression since our 27 year old son passed away 7 years ago. I also take medication for that. I’ve written many times about everything that I’ve been through, just for myself. Although painful, it has still been helpful. In addition I have seen a counselor and we often go over what I’ve written. Since my close family members can’t talk about their grief, or hear about mine, writing and therapy is my only outlet. It has helped to sort out emotions, and look at them with more understanding. Part of my grief has been wrapped up in guilt, which is normal but unfounded. Writing down the things that made me feel the worst has helped me let go of self blame. I can see much more clearly that I was just trying to place glame somewhere, in order to deal with the reality of why and how his death occurred. Getting misplaced blame off of my own shoulders has released a lot of hurt, and helped me see that there was a degree of inevitability in his passing. It has also allowed me to look back at joyful times without gut wrenching sadness. I can now talk about my son and smile at many of our memories. Writing has been a big part of guiding me through all of this. I highly recommend some kind of journaling for anyone going through any kind of stress or pain, or any other kind of debilitating depression or physical ailments. You can say anything at all, no matter how harsh, sad, or angry, and you can choose who reads it. It can be a release, relief, and ultimately even an uplifting experience.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. I am so glad to see that journaling has helped you get through difficult times. I rely on it almost as meditation! Continued good look with your writing.

  2. Blogging is definitely a useful tool! I feel much more connected with what I’m experiencing in relation to my condition since I’ve started writing about it this year. I’ve also been lucky to ‘meet’ lots of other people online dealing with their own illnesses. It seems its not just the writing, but the ability to share and have someone else recognise their own story in your life that is really useful. Thankyou for sharing this information.

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