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JAMA. 1988 Jun 10;259(22):3296-8.

Doctors have feelings too.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Cambridge Hospital, Harvard Medical School, MA 02139.


The medical encounter, like all human interaction, is unavoidably emotion laden. Rather than viewing them as something to be overcome, the emotional responses of the physician can be analyzed for information about the patient or about the physician. The emotional states of patients arouse complementary reactions in the clinician that are diagnostic clues to important clinical syndromes such as depression or character disorders. Conversely, the physician can have idiosyncratic responses to patients that can lead to inappropriate diagnostic and therapeutic choices or to avoidance of particular problems or patients. Self-awareness is the key to utilizing these reactions to improve the patient-physician relationship.

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