The painful truth: physicians are not invincible

South Med J. 2000 Oct;93(10):966-73.


Physicians are not immune to psychosocial problems but may face unique impediments to attending to them. Self-care among physicians is not a topic generally included as a part of professional training, nor is it a topic that readily receives consideration in professional practice. The stresses of professional practice can exact a great toll, however, and self-neglect can lead to tragic consequences. In some areas, particularly suicide rates, physicians have increased vulnerability, and in other areas problems may be unrecognized (depression, substance abuse, marital problems, and other stress-related concerns). Female physicians show some particular areas of risk. In this paper, we raise questions about how and why physicians may be particularly vulnerable, review the available literature about the extent and nature of such problems in physicians, discuss possible factors related to the development of these problems in physicians, and suggest a variety of solutions to improve physician self-care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders* / prevention & control
  • Mental Disorders* / psychology
  • Organizational Culture
  • Physician Impairment / psychology*
  • Physicians, Women / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide Prevention