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Dealing with the Challenge of Denial When You Are Diagnosed with Parkinson's


Updated June 11, 2009

Dealing with the Challenge of Denial When You Are Diagnosed with Parkinson's
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Most people with Parkinson's disease go through a period of denial of the diagnosis or of the real severity of the disease. While friends and family may point out that there is something wrong and that you need to see a doctor you may just shrug off their worries and even accuse them of being busybodies.

The cardiologist Thomas Graboys in his recent book “Life in the Balance: A physicians memoir of life, love and loss with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia” (by Thomas Graboys with Peter Zheutlin; Union Square Press, NY; 2008), chronicles the period of his denial quite vividly. He tells of very close friends telephoning his wife and expressing concerns about his health. He tells of colleagues of his, who witnessing his failing powers felt the obligation to raise the issue of PD with him in order to protect both his reputation and his patients. For their pains they received an angry rebuke from him. He tells the poignant story of running into a Chairman of the Department of Neurology at a famous Boston Hospital who said to him (after witnessing his gait and posture etc) “Tom, who is taking care of your Parkinson’s for you?” Graboys had up to that moment told himself that his increasing clumsiness and other problems were due to other reasons and that all the symptoms would just go away one day. Once the Chair of the Neurology department so casually assumed that Graboys had PD after witnessing the signs and symptoms so directly, Graboys could no longer stay in denial.

When we are in denial we put off and delay confronting the problem head on. Precious time is wasted. Until the problem is dealt with ‘head-on’ it cannot be treated optimally.


Parkinson's disease: The psychological aspects of a chronic illness. By: Dakof, Gayle A., Mendelsohn, Gerald A., Psychological Bulletin, 0033-2909, 1986, Vol. 99, Issue 3

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