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Diagnosis Shock

Boston Women's Journal, June/July 2008

by Judith Swack

Diagnosis shock is the traumatic reaction people experience the moment they first suspect or are told that they have a serious physical or emotional illness. Sadly, health care providers are not trained to recognize or treat psychological trauma. Left untreated, diagnosis shock can cause a host of emotional and physical problems substantially eroding a person’s health and quality of life. In fact, researchers in the field of health psychology have found that in some people the trauma can be so severe it can lead to mental illness such as depression and anxiety. 

For many years I have been treating people with health concerns using an innovative mind/body/spirit healing methodology called Healing from the Body Level Up ™ (HBLU ™). We found that people (and their relatives and friends) experienced diagnosis shock every time they were informed of a serious physical or psychological illness, no matter how well or compassionately the information was presented. We even found diagnosis shock occurring from suggestions for diagnostic tests or from self-diagnosis upon finding suspicious symptoms even if tests later proved there was no illness!





What happens in the moment of initial shock?

In the moment of initial shock, people asked themselves consciously or unconsciously, “What could this ___ (news or symptom) possibly mean?” The unconscious mind instantly generated a worst case scenario of loss of function or death so vivid, extreme, and frightening that it triggered a fight-or-flight reaction resulting in a loss trauma. People described this reaction as an intense adrenaline rush of fear, a feeling of frozenness or numbness, and/or a sharp indrawn breath followed by an inability to breathe normally, think clearly, or hear anything that’s said. Exclamations like "I don’t believe it" or "It can’t be true" were common. People instantly developed negative reactions to the setting and the people associated with that memory. These exaggerated, irrational, emotional and physical, i.e. phobic, responses occurred so rapidly that some people were not even consciously aware that they were shocked.

In addition to shock and fear, people felt a whole range of emotions including anger, sadness, hurt, pain, shame, guilt, emptiness, and powerlessness. As in all traumas, people experienced anticipatory phobias, a pervasive underlying feeling of dread that the traumatic event will happen again. People reported anxiety about going to the doctor for fear of bad news. Even little symptoms or seemingly abnormal reactions triggered the fear that the illness had recurred. One person with a prior heart attack panicked whenever he experienced shortness of breath. After repeated testing showed his heart to be normal, his cardiologist prescribed a tranquilizer that not only calmed him but also cleared his shortness of breath. Some people avoided attending cancer support groups for fear that others in the group would die and depress or frighten them out of their optimistic healing attitude.


To cope with the traumatic reactions, people commonly used avoidance, distraction, repression, denial, and magical thinking. These strategies did not eliminate the fear from the unconscious mind or body and in fact caused added stress. In some cases, these coping behaviors caused health complications when people avoided, put off, or failed to comply with treatment recommendations. Furthermore, studies from the field of psychoneuroimmunology have shown that traumatic stress itself has negative health effects because it suppresses the immune system.


Diagnosis shock makes it hard to choose treatment options and can interfere with doctor/patient collaboration. Many people work well and respectfully with their doctors and health care providers.

In cases where people do have a serious illness, patients are often given many treatment options and opinions and asked to choose their own treatment (while traumatized). For certain illnesses, recommended treatment options can be extreme, shocking, and offer no guarantees. Even the doctors may be uncertain of the treatment plan or inform patients that there is nothing they can do.


Patients may experience such intense feelings of doubt, confusion, and overwhelm that they develop phobias about having these feelings fearing that if they make the wrong decision it could kill them. This phobic reaction can cause people to balk at any treatment whatsoever for fear of making a mistake. They may second-guess/obsess or overtreat themselves in an attempt to cover all the bases. If the treatment is unsuccessful, the person may blame himself. Overwhelmed patients may even blame their doctors for upsetting them and stop trusting them.


What do I recommend to my clients for the prevention and clearing of diagnosis shock?

After diagnosis shock has imprinted, no amount of facts or real information to the contrary can erase it. Diagnosis shock must be cleared directly from the unconscious mind and body. Until recently, there was no easy way to do this. Fortunately there is a new technique from the field of Energy Psychology called Natural Bio-Destressing (NBD), also known as EFT or tapping. NBD works in minutes by activating the calming reflex used by the nervous system to neutralize the fight-or-flight reflex, thus eliminating the phobic reactions from the conscious mind, unconscious mind and body. This easy to use technique involves tapping with the fingertips on selected areas of the face, torso, and hands and using eye movements and left brain/right brain integration techniques to resolve traumatic reactions.

I teach my clients (and their families) to:

(1) Eliminate fear and stress by treating themselves with NBD every morning for what they dread will happen that day and

(2) every evening for anything that might have upset them during the day.

I recommend (3) using NBD before doctor’s appointments on the anticipatory fear of bad news, (4) while talking with the doctor, and (5) after each doctor visit to clear anything upsetting from the appointment.

I also recommend that clients use NBD (6) before any kind of treatment to clear the body’s fear of invasion and harm.

While performing the technique, the client reminds their body that this treatment is a healing intervention meant to make them well and to ask the body to fully receive the benefits of the treatment.

(7)This includes asking the body to send the treatment to where it is needed and to protect other parts of the body where the treatment is not needed. 

Finally, I recommend that clients use NBD to (8) clear feelings of doubt, uncertainty, and overwhelm.

A Success Story:

Sam was diagnosed with leukemia. He did not feel at all sick. He got several opinions about different types of chemotherapy, but declined any form of treatment for fear that the doctors were “being too aggressive” and trying to make him sick. A year later, his blood count had risen substantially, and the leukemia invaded his bone marrow. One week after clearing diagnosis shock with HBLU ™ treatment, he started chemotherapy, a regimen requiring six rounds of chemotherapy at one month intervals. After the first treatment his blood count went to normal, and he considered discontinuing treatment. We treated diagnosis shock related to the treatment protocol, and he finished the series. One year later he is free of cancer.



The end result of teaching people to manage their emotional and physical reactions with the Natural Bio-Destressing technique and HBLU ™ therapy is:

  • Eliminate Shock from body - client can progress towards healing of choice

  • Reduced fear

  • Feelings of empowerment and control

  • Making better decisions

  • Being more focused

  • Smoother doctor/patient relationships

  • Fewer side effects

  • Quicker recovery times

  • More peace of mind

  • Better quality of life 

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