Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner

Illness Behavior

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_966



Illness behavior refers to any actions or reactions of an individual who feels unwell for the purpose of defining their state of health and obtaining physical or emotional relief from perceived or actual illness. These behaviors include how individuals monitor and interpret bodily sensations, utilize healthcare resources, discuss illness or symptoms with providers, and adhere to prescribed medical regimens.

Illness behaviors can be organized into two broad categories:
  • Self-care behavior – Any action taken to manage or improve a health condition in the absence of direct medical attention, which includes managing symptoms and caring for minor injuries. Research indicates that a majority of health problems are managed via self-care behaviors and that most individuals will attempt self-treatment prior to seeking medical attention.

  • Healthcare utilization behavior– Any action that involves direct use of healthcare services (e.g.,...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References and Readings

  1. Christensen, A. J. (2004). Patient adherence with treatment regimens: Bridging the gap between behavioral science and biomedicine. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Mechanic, D. (1982). Symptoms, illness behavior, and help-seeking. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Pilowsky, I. (1997). Abnormal illness behaviour. Chichester, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Schouten, B. C., & Meeuwesen, L. (2006). Cultural differences in medical communication: A review of the literature. Patient Education and Counseling, 64, 21–34.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Williams, P. G., Smith, T. W., & Jordan, K. D. (2010). Health anxiety and hypochondriasis: Interpersonal extensions of the cognitive-behavioral perspective. In G. Beck (Ed.), Interpersonal processes in the anxiety disorders: Implications for understanding psychopathology and treatment (pp. 261–284). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA