Critically discuss the role of illness perceptions in how patients react to new symptoms.

Health psychology

This module is designed to introduce students to advanced issues in health psychology. Students will learn about the theoretical basis of health psychology, as well as the kind of work that health psychologists do and the way in which they apply their knowledge in the field. Students will also explore some fascinating areas of research, some of which court considerable controversy. Students will be expected to develop a critical approach to current issues in health psychology, an ability which is so important for level 6 study. This critical perspective will be fostered in the lectures and then further built upon in the workshops. Additionally, the module will help students to further develop some key transferable skills. In particular, the module incorporates a group presentation assessment, and part of the training will be to hone students’ presentation skills to an advanced level, in preparation of entry into postgraduate study or professional training.

Case Study: Lorna McKay

Lorna is 39 years old. Lorna lives alone. Her sister and parents live in the same village, within 3 miles and she has a close relationship with them. She has been unemployed for the past 18 months. Previously, she had worked as a lab technician. She left her job through ill health around 3 years ago. Lorna’s Body Mass Index is 48, and she has diabetes.


Lorna reports gaining weight as a teenager and being obese by the age of 15. At school she was bullied, and she attributed this to her weight. She has since been unhappy with her body and has struggled with attempts to lose weight. She has followed many self-directed diets, and commercial diets (e.g. weight watchers), but has always regained the weight lost. Lorna does not work, having been unemployed for 18 months. She had recently tried to do some work at a charity shop, when supported by her sister, but found this uncomfortable as she felt people were staring at her and talking about her weight.

Current eating behaviour
Lorna reported eating three meals a day, usually cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and a cooked dinner at around 7pm each day. She drinks alcohol rarely. Lorna is not on any medication besides insulin for the diabetes. Aside from regular meals, she reports regularly eating large volumes of food, when not hungry. An example is: three packets of biscuits, a box of doughnuts, and a 2-litre tub of ice-cream. She reports that these episodes occurred roughly once or twice a month for as long as Lorna can remember.

Lorna has not strong recollection of what triggers the eating episodes, but generally feels frustrated that her attempts at dieting do not work and feels that she struggles to keep to the rules. When she breaks the rules, she feels like she may as well go crazy and start again tomorrow; this is when the episodes of eating large volumes are likely.

Due to the limitations on her lifestyle, Lorna has previously spent a lot of time alone. She found the loneliness hard to deal with and often turned to food as a comfort. Lorna is keen to undergo weight loss surgery and looks forward to being able to enjoy a richer and fuller life.

The word limit is 1250 for each essay question.

Essay Question (section A)

2. Refer to the case study of Lorna. Using clear justification from theory and research, critically consider what interventions might be useful to Lorna, and how outcome would be assessed.

Essay Question (section B)

3. Critically discuss the role of illness perceptions in how patients react to new symptoms.