“Sick” and “Recovery” Roles Impact Rehabilitation After Brain Injury


Society maintains a certain expectations of roles such as "sick." These expectations can influence a person's behaviors, acceptance by self and others, as well as recovery. A person in a "sick" role is generally considered exempt from societal responsibility, exempt from self-blame for being sick, and is expected to both want to get better and to seek guidance from medical authorities. A person who is sick might accept the expected "sick" role and its responsibilities associated with it, reject the role and not seek assistance, or over-identify with the role and not cooperate with recovery.

A recent experiment of people who have a brain injury found that people suffered from depression and anxiety more often when they were not actively transitioned from a "sick" role into a "in recovery" role. In addition, women were more likely than men to remain static in the "sick" role.

Rehabilitation professionals should consider actively assistance people from the idea of being sick by creating concrete rehabilitation goals, as well as considering gender and understanding the underlying emotional processes of getting better.

Barclay DA. Impact of "sick" and "recovery roles on brain injury rehabilitation outcomes. Rehabilitation Research and Practice. (November 2012).