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Imposter Syndrome: The Patient & The Therapist

Oct 4, 2021

What is imposter syndrome?

We have all been there, started a new job or gone to a friend’s party and not really known anyone – it makes you feel like you do not belong in that situation. For some individuals this is a persistent occurrence through different aspects of their everyday life, linked to a low self esteem and lack of confidence.

The phenomenon is called Impostor Syndrome, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, accomplishments or themselves and has an internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. It’s found in both males and females, but is more common in females, younger age groups and students. In the context of mental illness, individuals may see themselves as less ill (or less anxious/depressed/mentally unwell) compared to others and therefore do not seek medical attention, as they feel unworthy of doing so. 

“Someone else will have more severe symptoms than me, I do not want to call my GP as they need the time to treat others and treating me would be a waste of time.”

Theories of imposter syndrome within musculoskeletal medicine

This phenomenon can be cross referenced to those who suffer trauma or an injury after a significant event, causing a change in their belief system. Those who suffer an injury are at risk of impostor syndrome, as steps they take to recover from their injury are often attributed to another professional. As Therapists the individuals we see are often very thankful for our help, but we would not be doing our jobs properly if the individuals belief system was “My Therapist fixed me.” Here at goPhysio we educate an individual to ease their pain, avoid aggravating factors, understand the cause of their pain and demonstrate/educate on exercises to help manage their pain/injury or condition. Yes, some of the hands-on treatments are helpful but our main focus is always to empower the individual and be positive about what that individual is doing to help their condition. 

Another way to explain impostor syndrome in a musculoskeletal context, is looking at those who are in chronic pain. From experience, those who suffer with chronic pain are likely to see several medical professionals and sometimes a cause cannot be found for their pain. This can make them feel like a “Fraud” or an “Impostor” and that nobody believes that they have this chronic pain which is affecting their everyday life. This can feed back into the mental illness, that patients will see themselves as less worthy of medical help and will stop trying to seek it. 

That’s why as a medical professional it’s important to use the basic skills of a human being such as listening, communication & empathy before putting our ‘medical hats’ on. As a patient who has suffered trauma, injury or pain, its important to do everything you can to help yourself whether this is taking a GPs advice on painkillers, Therapist’s advice on exercises/what you should and shouldn’t do or have the self confidence to take charge of your rehabilitation process. 

Lets work together on educating and empowering you on your journey to a better wellbeing.

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