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Behav Sleep Med. 2013;11(1):40-55. doi: 10.1080/15402002.2011.620671.

Understanding patient responses to insomnia.

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Department of Anthropology, University of North Texas, TX 76203, USA.


To better gain insight into patient responses to insomnia, we take a medical anthropologically informed approach to patient beliefs and behaviors, particularly those related to self-diagnosis, management, help-seeking, and self-treatment of insomnia. We conducted 24 in-depth qualitative interviews in which participants were asked their beliefs about the origin of their insomnia, its anticipated course, their evaluation of symptoms, their responses, and their expectations surrounding treatment. Important and novel data were generated about patient beliefs and behaviors related to problem sleeping. Patients identified barriers to treatment, particularly those contextualized within a general social stigma and personal isolation, in which their problems sleeping were not taken seriously. The interview format was particularly conducive to making patients comfortable discussing the personal changes they made to their medically prescribed treatment plans, or supplanting their medical therapy with some kind of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy. These are important issues in the long term management of chronic insomnia. We underscore concern about the need to evaluate the efficacy of therapies that so many people with insomnia are driven to try.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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