In recent decades studies based on questionnaires and interviews have concluded that when doctors become ill they face significant barriers to seeking help. Several reasons have been proposed, primarily the notion that doctors' work environment predisposes them to an inappropriate help-seeking behaviour. In this article, the idea of the ill physician as a paradox in a medical drama is examined. Through a text-interpretive and comparative approach to historical illness narratives written by doctors suffering from one specific diagnosis, namely opioid addiction, the complex set of considerations guiding their behaviour as patients are to some extent revealed. The article concludes that, in the identity transition necessary to become a patient, doctors are held back by their professional status and that every step to assist them needs to take shape based on an awareness of the underlying principles of the medical drama. Written illness narratives by doctors, such as those highlighted in this article, might serve as a tool to increase such awareness.
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Funding This research project received grant from ‘Greta och Johan Kocks stiftelse’.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.