Paradoxical results in the cure of chronic illness: the "burden of normality" as exemplified following seizure surgery

Epilepsy Behav. 2004 Feb;5(1):13-21. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2003.11.013.


Little has been written about processes of recovery following life-changing medical interventions for chronic illness. This article reviews our research with chronic epilepsy patients undergoing neurosurgery for the relief of intractable partial seizures. This research has given rise to a new conceptualization of adjustment and outcome following effective treatment of chronic illness, representing the first, detailed characterization of this process from a psychological and psychosocial perspective. Crucial to outcome are patient and family expectations prior to treatment, and learning to discard roles associated with chronic illness after treatment. These and the posttreatment affective functioning of the patient temper the view of medical outcome, and can account for paradoxical clinical effects, such as worsening patient psychosocial functioning in the context of medical treatment success. Our results have clear implications for the clinical management of chronically ill patients and their families to optimize treatment outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Chronic Disease
  • Epilepsy / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Neurosurgery*
  • Postpartum Period / psychology
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Adjustment
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome