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Social Identity

  • By: Lisa Sparks
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Patients diagnosed with a chronic or terminal disease gain membership in a group of people who share a common set of symptoms, side effects, and challenges in dealing with providers. It is through communicating with others that patients diagnosed with an illness often see themselves differently and start to recognize that others may view them differently. Shifts in social identity and health can also have particular effects on medical decision making in the doctor–patient relationship.

Patients often experience dramatic shifts in their identities as they move through the stages of being healthy and well to being sick. Identification as someone who was previously healthy shifting to someone who is sick, identification as a patient, and identification as a survivor are all important aspects to consider. For ...

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