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A Piece of My Mind
July 16, 2003

A Mutual Anxiety

Author Affiliations
 

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(3):305. doi:10.1001/jama.290.3.305

Most physicians don't often think about being scared at their jobs. Sure, there are people out there with guns, knives, and spatulas who could decide to attack us when we least expect it, especially since mostly our patients don't look at all dangerous. I once had a new patient who seemed very mild-mannered. I noticed from her records that she'd been losing weight, so I asked her about it.

"I haven't been eating. I'm under a lot of stress." I have many patients who have stress in their lives—why I myself consult a therapist for exactly the same problem. I gently prompted the young woman as I always do in such cases: "Tell me what's going on." "I'm out on bond for premeditated murder." Perhaps the first question that defensively popped into my mind was, The victim wasn't your last doctor, was it? "Well, I guess we'd all find that pretty stressful," I told her out loud, though extra soothingly so as not to rile her in any way.

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