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Nature of Health and Illness: The Case Study Term Paper

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The biopsychosocial model is generally the model or approach that posits biological psychology which entails thoughts, emotions, manners, and social factors, all play an important role in human functioning in the environment of illness or disease. Without a doubt, health can be deeply understood in terms of a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors slightly more than with the sole purpose in biological terms. The case under analysis shows that the patient, Henrietta Smith, is inclined to illness and cannot overcome his psychological problem without psychiatric help.

Discussion section

As it was stated above that the biopsychosocial can be understood more deep by a diverse of factors. No one can deny that the social influence on health is significant, where the better health and higher quality of life of community members depend on the level of their participation in the social networks, assistance to each other and overall change of the society to become more healthy and prosperous. Such social networks usually include the family, friends, neighbors, church, work, sport clubs and other social groups where people can exchange information, experience and advices. The case of Henrietta Smith portrays that those social networks are also considered as reference groups whom a person can consult on any decision and by whom such person can be influenced either in the positive or negative way. Such influence is characterized by the following criteria: (a) density, which is the extent to which people know each other; (b) reciprocity, which is mutual sharing; (c) intensity, which identifies the frequency of interactions between community members; (d) dispersion, which suggests how easily members contact each other; (e) functional social support, under which people provide assistance, contacts, and resources to help each other (Beneckson, 2008).

Social construction of illness is based on social images of ill people popularized and widely discussed in media. The biological factors that can cause a regulation in the body weight and appetite can vary from person to another, where it is based on some factors such as the age, gender, the genes, the family root and whether some of the parents have the ability to get weight or not. The example of Henrietta Smith shows that factors such as anger, sadness, boredom, and anxiety can trigger binge eating and has direct impact on the eating disorder manner. Impulsive manners and certain other emotional problems can be more frequent in people with binge eating disorder. Nevertheless, many people also claim that binging takes place regardless of their mood (Boyle et al, 2001).

In contrast to biopsychosocial model, social construction of illness is more popular and promulgated by diverse media channels. To some extend, social construction of illness is concerned with medicalization of society and desire of millionso f people to take a wellness drug. For instance, the obesity might easily be transformed through the life span into even greater health-related risks, namely, high blood pressure, a great likelihood of heart disease, asthma and even Type II diabetes that was previously known as particularly adult disease. Moreover, aside from serious consequences considering health condition, there might appear a risk of total social isolation due to social discrimination, depression and low self esteem. Consequently it should be mentioned that not a single cause, but a set of interrelated factors, specifically environmental, genetic, socioeconomic, psychological and behavioral all contribute to further excessive accumulation of fat in the body, known as obesity or overweight. On the other hand, the physical activity among children and adolescents is denied by society in favor of pills and plastic surgery (Cockerham, 2010).

The illness model is more popular because due to technological development that has greatly contributed to the decrease in physical activity, people became passive and unmotivated. That is why it is extremely important for a child to become physically active, providing positive effects not only on the body weight, but also on the bone strength and especially blood pressure. The second strategies is throughout increasing number of schools are also encouraging healthy lifestyle behaviors (Cockerham, 2010). The significant drop in physical activity engagement in schools was noticed over the last several years. When total body weight is more than 25 percent fat in boys and more than 32 percent fat in girls there is a clear evidence of overweight condition that soon may cause more serious consequences.

The case and symptoms of Henrietta Smith vividly portray that she is inclined to illness. The patient was impressed by Oprah’s talk show about 11 years ago– “Diseases Doctors Miss Most” and still believes she has the same problem as a person in this show. In terms of social construction of illness, media creates negative images of health and forces people to invent diseases. Causing such negative side effects as irregular heartbeat, mineral loss, shrunken bones, and others anorexia can lead to hospitalization, harmed body functioning and even death. That is why, it is vitally important to identify anorexia symptoms at the beginning stage of this eating disorder to be able to heal it and prevent further harmful effects (Conrad, 2009).

The case shows that being used to treat mental illnesses and disorders, psychoactive drugs influence the central nervous system by altering the cognition and behavior of the person, including mood, thought process, perception, arousal, etc. Such drugs are used as primary treatment in case of mental disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Though, in cases of personality disorders psychoactive drugs are used as secondary treatment in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Psychoactive drugs can be classified in the following categories: (a) depressants such as hypnotics, alcohol, volatile solvents or tranquilizers that reduce the central nervous system (CNS) activity and body functions; (b) stimulants such as ecstasy, caffeine, cocaine, nicotine or amphetamines that, on the contrary, increase the work of CNS; (c) opioids like heroin or morphine that reduce and relieve pain and stimulate sleep; and finally (d) hallucinogens such as LSD, PCP or marijuana that influence the human perception and cause hallucinations and delusions (Conrad, 2009).

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Psychological dependence on illness happens for emotional reasons like stress reduction. There are two models of addiction: (a) disease model of addiction, which is based biologically and needs medical treatment to be recovered; and (b) life-process model of addiction, which is the habitual response as a source of the security or gratification that requires social relationships, and support and understanding of the surrounding people (Medical Economics Company, 2000).

The case and problems of Henrietta Smith, shows that while some symptoms are obvious both for the person him/herself and others around (nervousness, physical dependence on alcohol or drugs, etc), other symptoms are rather difficult to recognize. Usually, people use schemas as the organized ways to look at things and people that influence person’s expectations, behavior, etc. Certainly, to seek medical treatment is the responsibility of each drug-dependent person or those who surround him based on the perception of the severity of the addiction symptoms. Though, there are some factors that might positively influence treatment seeking, including belief systems, certain life activities, gender, and ethnicity (Cockerham, 2009).

While the good patient role presumes that the person behaves well and properly by following the prescribed treatment and medical services, the role of bad patient presumes that the person always complain about everything done to him/her, misbehaves, refuses to take medication, etc. In this case, it is the responsibility of the nurse, treating doctor or relatives to influence the patient and convince that health and wellness behavior will be only for good and will help him/her to recover from the illness addiction or health-related consequences (Cockerham, 2009).


The case of Henrietta Smith, shows that social construction of illness theory influences the community greatly. Culture and gender have their own influences on health care since the person’s socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender and other factors directly affect his/her perception of the disease, necessity or financial ability to seek appropriate treatment. It is obvious that those people who live in poverty or from low socioeconomic status receive less medical help than those with stable income and medical coverage. In multi-ethnical communities the doctors can influence the patients by learning and understanding the beliefs, attitudes and experiences of patients from different ethnical groups and nationalities. The influence of gender on health care can be observed while analyzing the female and male patients, their attitudes and behaviors, where men are usually direct and logical decision makers and women are less independent and more influenced by others. Still, illness is a mental problem affected poor and rich community members.


Beneckson, R. (2008). Psychology of Personal Adjustment. Florida International University. Web.

Boyle, P.J., DuBose, E.R., Ellingson, S.J., Guinn, D.E., & McCurdy, D.B. (2001). Organizational Ethics in Health Care: Principles, Cases, and Practical Solutions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cockerham, William. C. (2010). Medical sociology. 11th ed. Engelwood Cliffs. NJ: Prentice Hall.

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Conrad, Peter.(2009). The sociology of health and illness: Critical perspective (8th ed. New York).

Medical Economics Company (2000). The Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR). 54th edition. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company.

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