The Shifting Perspectives Model of Chronic Illness


For those who are not diagnosed with a chronic illness, wellness is oftentimes black-or-white. For instance, a person is ill if they fight off a virus, but becomes well again when the virus is gone. They identify as being well the majority of the time. However, individuals with a chronic illness have overlaps between states of illness and wellness. A person’s perspective of being ill or being well may change from day to day, or even at different points throughout the day.

Shifting perspectives

Individuals with a chronic condition may benefit from the shifting perspectives model of chronic illness. This model allows individuals to see themselves as both ill and well, with either wellness in the foreground and illness in the background or vice versa.

The model of maintaining identities of both illness and wellness, and being sure to shift when necessary, can help individuals with a chronic illness feel more comfortable. They can live as a person with a chronic illness, but they are not defined solely by the illness.

Illness perspective

When a person with a chronic illness is experiencing a flare-up of pain, fatigue, or other symptoms, illness is in the foreground. This reminds them to take appropriate care of themselves and that their health is important. However, keeping the identity of wellness in the background provides optimism.

Wellness perspective

When a reduction of symptoms occurs, or the ability to participate in activities unrelated to illness is experienced, wellness is in the foreground. This provides feelings of hope and time to focus on aspects of identity outside the illness. However, keeping the identity of illness in the background reminds individuals to continue taking care of themselves and avoid overdoing activities that can exacerbate their illness.

Additional source: Psychology Today