Dealing with difficult patients can represent a significant burden in the life of doctors. It is more productive, however, to view this burden as a product of the interaction between doctor and patient, for which both have a responsibility, rather than attributing any problems encountered to shortcomings of the patient alone. There is a significant risk in such situations of potentially harmful over-medicalisation. It behoves doctors, therefore, to try to prevent such problems becoming established, or make some attempt to rectify matters if they have already become so. Much is known about the factors that contribute to successful and unsuccessful clinical transactions. The awareness of what doctors bring both as professionals and as individual people to this interaction, will count as much as the practical clinical efforts made towards helping patients.