The notion that illness benefits us in any way may not seat well with you. It might even offend you that I’m using these words illness and benefits in the same sentence, if so I apologies in advance but suggest you keep on reading just in case it does make sense.
The Power of Secondary Gains in Illness
In psychology the term Secondary Gains, describes “any advantage, as increased attention, disability benefits, or release from unpleasant responsibilities, obtained as a result of having an illness” ~ Dictionary.com
In medicine, a secondary gain is described as a significant psychological motivator in reporting symptoms.
The phenomenon of secondary gains is well documented in professional literature. It’s a cause and effect pattern which we may have learned in early childhood when illness was often a time for emotional compensation, a time where we got as much attention as we needed.
Working with clients over many years I was privileged to witness and I am able to describe a wide spectrum of Secondary Gains (SG) and how they relate to a person’s particular challenges, yet there are some common SG at work.
Examples of Common Secondary Gains
A common SG will be to avoid chores, work and responsibilities. Another common and more personal use of secondary gains is to use illness (head ache etc’) as excuse to not engage in arguments or personal conflict or even make a decision. Another dominant secondary gain to illness is the fact that for some, something has to be wrong in life in order to feel important and lovable. This is may be common, but it is difficult to assess about ourselves, and even harder to admit.
Have you ever considered that you may be using your illness, limiting condition or situation to either hold on to someone, or that you use your illness as a way to push people away, make yourself so unattractive that no one will get close to you? Now this may not apply to you but this is a real example from the lives of real clients.
All of the above are powerful examples of hidden aspects and secondary gains which may promote the state of mind in which illness can thrive.
Secondary gains do not imply that the illness or the symptoms are unreal or unimportant. To the contrary! They tell us that there is more to the illness than meets the eye, the stethoscope and the x-ray.
If you can think of other secondary gains I did not mentions, please share with me?