Ill health is powerlessness: a phenomenological study about worthlessness, limitations and suffering

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The aim of the study was to create an understanding of the different dimensions of subjective ill health through discovering the essence of ill health, based on the individual experience. A philosophical, phenomenological method has been employed, and in-depth interviews were conducted with 25 individuals. The findings showed that the essence of ill health is powerlessness, which is made by a self-image of worthlessness, a sense of being imprisoned in one's life situation, and emotional suffering. The individual views her/himself as worthless, based on societal norms, attitudes and human models. Incapability and a sense of worthlessness cause the individual to distrust her/himself and others. She/he is imprisoned in her/his own life situation due to limited choices and ability. Such a situation gives rise to apathy. Destructive feelings of alienation, anguish, shame and guilt take over, and the individual's autonomy and existence are threatened. Stigmatization results from suffering and a sense of worthlessness. The informants compensated for their vulnerability by means of human support, intimacy with others, a society adapted to disability, living in the present and awareness.

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