Sensitive patients

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For many people, their arrival at holistic medicine is generally precipitated by a few key factors: chronic conditions that conventional medicine has been unable to relieve (ie desperate and nowhere else to turn), chronic conditions where the side effects of allopathic drugs are causing ancillary diseases (ie over usage of some painkillers causes gastric ulcers), or the therapeutic benefits of a consultation that considers the emotional disposition of the client being as important as the physical manifestation of symptoms.
Whatever category a client fits into, a high percentage of clients seeking assistance outside of mainstream medicine will in varying degrees be fairly sensitive: whether that is due to a body full of toxic drugs, gradually deteriorating health and/or the psychological impact of feeling part of an impersonal medical system.

If you practice a complementary medicine modality, consult an ‘alternative’ practitioner, or like me, you’re a student who has just begun to see clients (homeopathically); then you will appreciate the complexity of treating people who are sensitive or reactive to the medicines they are prescribed. It’s useful to ask, what does sensitive, and hypersensitive actually mean?

Sensitive: Easily irritated, delicate, affected by external stimuli or conditions, capable of registering small differences or changes in amounts.
Hypersensitive: Having unduly vulnerable feeling, abnormally sensitive to an allergen, a drug, or other agent.

Where sensitive people might be described as being aware, or having a highly developed radar to their surroundings, hypersensitive people might actually find that they are over-attuned. The sensitive person generally has an added depth and perception that enriches the quality of their living, they perceive the nuance that other people may miss out on. Whereas the hypersensitive person’s attunement is disabling and prevents an enjoyment of life - it can be crippling and antisocial.

Sensitivity in itself is perhaps not necessarily an attribute that needs to be ‘treated’, so much is taken into account while case taking (unless of course the patient would like to be less sensitive). However, over-sensitivity, or hypersensitivity, which often diminishes quality of life is something that needs to be addressed.

The sensitive and hypersensitive patient will share similar areas of vulnerability. It is the degree to which these symptoms affect their lives that will determine whether or not they are hypersensitive. Having ascertained the client’s level of sensitivity (by considering the list included), the special considerations made for the client will be in the area of administration and potency of medicines. It is important to remember that the distinction between sensitive and hypersensitive is at the practitioner’s discretion. In the hypersensitive client I would be particularly looking for a history of extreme reactivity to medicines, visits to a variety of physicians and healers, a bunch of tests, reports etc that they have brought with them.

In homeopathy, for example, the administration and potency (strength) of the remedy becomes contentious with the hypersensitive patient, because the fear of a negative reaction runs so high. For the hypersensitive patient a homeopath would consider administration of the medicine by: olfaction (sniffing), placebo, dilution in water and in extreme cases, writing the name of the remedy on a piece of paper.

Tips for How to identify the Sensitive/ Hypersensitive patient:

Environment: Allergies to dust, pollens, chemicals etc causing a multitude of symptoms like sneezing, overproduction of mucous, headaches, malaise.

Food peculiarities:
These folks are picky about what they eat. They have complex and finicky diets that make it difficult to eat out and can compromise their social interactions.

Quick reactions to remedies and medicines:
For some clients, even holding a homeopathic remedy can affect them.

Noise, light, and smells:
External impressions can have a big impact causing discomfort, irritability, and possibly a desire to retreat from public spaces to protect oneself.

Highly attuned psychic states:
Clairvoyance, dreams and intuition. These people might say things like “I can feel what other people are feeling”, “ I have had dreams that come true”.

Relationships difficulties:
Intimacy can be confronting and difficult to sustain. These people can be too open, experiencing a loss of personal boundaries. With ideals set high, they can be easily disappointed and hurt.

History of suppression:
These clients will have a history of taking immunosuppressive drugs, repeated courses of antibiotics, and external creams eg. cortisone for eczema. A history of emotional suppression should also be considered.

Too many drugs:
This includes conventional medicine, ‘alternative’ medicine and recreational drugs. (Natural medicine can also exacerbate, irritate and confuse existing conditions if not administered judiciously)

As sensitivity permeates both the physical sphere and the emotional sphere, the practitioner should be aware that these clients may need more time during consultations, and that they respond well to extra reassurance.

Finally, if the practitioner is unable to evaluate the true extent of the client’s sensitivity and hence reactivity to medicines, it is good to keep in mind this story from an experienced practitioner. Apprehensive about the reaction one of his client’s might have to a medicine, but also aware that she was possibly exaggerating her symptoms, he decided to prescribe her a placebo and advised her to call him if anything unusual happened. When she called the next day saying that her symptoms had become much worse since taking the medicine, “What did you give me, I feel terrible, I can’t believe it I feel horrible”, his suspicions were verified. He told her that he had given her a placebo, and they decided together that they needed to address her hyper-reactivity/ sensitivity as an issue in itself. It was a confident experiment by an experienced practitioner, and his intuition paid dividends for the next avenue of treatment !

Contributed by: Ali Noble


































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