Personal Medicine

Patricia Deegan


Personal medicine is an activity that a person does to obtain wellness, rather than something a person takes (e.g., medication) for wellness. In the psychiatric setting, personal medicine, or other self-initiated, non-pharmaceutical self-care activities, is used to decrease symptoms, avoid undesirable outcomes such as hospitalization, and improve mood, thoughts, behaviors, and the overall sense of well being. Not to be confused with ‘personalized medicine’ (a medical model emphasizing the customization of healthcare, with all decisions and practices being tailored to individual patients).

The self-care use of ‘personal medicine’ was first introduced in early 2003 as a result of qualitative research conducted by Patricia E. Deegan through the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare. After interviewing individuals who were taking psychiatric medication as a part of their recovery process, Deegan found that: ‘When describing their use of psychiatric pharmaceuticals or ‘pill medicine,’ research participants also described a variety of personal wellness strategies and activities that I have called ‘personal medicine.’ Personal medicines were non-pharmaceutical activities and strategies that served to decrease symptoms and increase personal wellness.

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