Tag Archives: learned helplessness

When patients feel like hostages

22 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    July 22, 2018

When his 6-year old son became very ill and was hospitalized, Dan Beckham observed how his own behaviour in the hospital began to dramatically change compared to his real life. Although he would readily send a restaurant meal back if it weren’t properly cooked, now when his son received poor care (e.g. a healthcare professional who did not wash his hands), Dan hesitated to be assertive “for fear of alienating the physicians and nurses whose goodwill he needed to maintain.” Here’s how he explained this:

“I felt dependent and powerless, as if my son was a hostage to the care he received and the system that delivered it. It was as though I was compelled to negotiate for his safe release from potential harm.”

Such a reaction is an example of what’s known as Hostage Bargaining Syndrome (HBS), as described in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.(1)  Continue reading