The Sadness of Secondary Gain

I recently had a client with secondary gain. Secondary gain is defined as: “any advantage, as increased attention, disability benefits, or release from unpleasant responsibilities, obtained as a result of having an illness”.

A man goes to his doctor because he has a chicken attached to his head. This is a problem, having a chicken attached to his head. The doctor examines him and asks him to come back the next week. When he returns the doctor says he can remove the attached chicken. The man pauses and thinks for a minute and replies he doesn’t want the chicken removed. The doctor is astonished and asks “why?” The man replies, because I like the eggs.

My client has a difficult problem with migraines. When I mentioned wouldn’t it be nice to be free of the migraines and return to work instead of subsisting on disability, the reply was that that might mean going back to school to catch up to the current technology in the former job. Rather they would prefer to be well enough to engage in the volunteer work they enjoyed but not well enough to be off of the disability.

I bring this up because many of us have enough “benefits” from our problems to want those problems to continue rather than face the change or uncertainty of returning to full mental or physical health.

As a side note: Migraines affect an estimated 38 million Americans. They can strike both young and old, but a majority of sufferers are women, and/or between the ages of 35 and 55.

Worldwide, as many as 1 billion people are affected, making migraine the third most prevalent illness in the world.

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