Pinch nose with thumb and forefinger, tuck lips in, or lean back in chair to escape These are some of the alert gestures that emergency physicians observe in patients when they hide information about their pathology or general state of physical or mental health. Knowing how to interpret the body language and non-conscious gestures of a patient is key for health personnel, who can thus prevent an assault, detect an addiction or save a person with suicidal ideationand it is that 20% of those who commit suicide have gone to the doctor's office that same day and 50%, during that week.
At the 33rd national congress that the Spanish Society of Emergency and Emergency Medicine (SEMES) celebrates in Madrid from June 7 to 9, the civil guard and member of the SEMES Mental Health working group Juan Manuel García will give an account of these techniques in the paper "Body language and the importance of the unconscious in the emergency room: techniques to detect when a patient lies or hides information about his accident". In an interview with EFE, García, who admits that his interest in the subject comes from the police field although it is applicable to the health sector and many others, stresses that the technique does not allow us to know if the patient is lying or not, but it does allow us to know if he is keeping quiet. something or is hiding information. Sometimes, more than a lie, there is an exaggeration. It is, he says, those patients who, upon arrival at the hospital emergency room, show symptoms in order to be treated as a matter of priority.
Obtain a medical leave or the prescription of an anxiolytic
The patient's motivation to hide information can be very varied. Sometimes it is done to get the prescription of a medicationis common in the case of anxiolytics such as benzodiazepines or drugs such as Trankimazin. In fact, Spain is the leader in the consumption of anxiolytics. Another motivation to hide or exaggerate symptoms from the physician is that justify a leave of absence. Garcia comments that there is patients who confess, for example, that they cannot raise an arm while unconsciously generating gestures incompatible with the pathology that they are counting
Knowing these techniques also helps the doctor in the event of a possible aggression, and especially makes it possible to recognize warning signs when a patient does not appear to be violent and yet is about to attack. Attacks on doctors, both physical and verbal, broke a historical record in 2022, 38% more than a year earlier, according to complaints collected by professional associations. García considers that recognizing these alarm signals "a few seconds beforehand" gives the doctor time to react. Generally, the aggressor tends to occupy more space, raises his chin, sticks out his chest, separates his arms from the body and opens his legs, in what is called body expansion.
Techniques such as emotional blinking make the patient trustworthy
This civil guard and body language expert at SEMES regrets that these techniques are not widely known, despite the fact that for a few years he has been training emergency health professionals throughout Spain. He explains that each emotional profile requires a technique and it is very important to know how to listen, although he admits that very little time is available in consultations and sometimes there is not even eye contact between patient and doctor.
A very simple technique is "active listening and generating emotional blinks". This, he says, is showing the patient that his story matters, nodding his head and blinking slowly and softly, just at the moment when he tells something important. This technique allows the non-conscious part of the brain to interpret that the doctor cares about you, and that causes the patient to open up and connect, something very important, he warns, in the detection of suicidal ideation, which could thus be better prevented.