When a part of our body hurts or when we have already developed a disease, we turn to doctors for help and perform medical tests. It is very likely that almost none of us would consider the option to turn to professional psychological help in that case.
Because, what does our mind have to do with that now ?! Can body diseases be approached psychologically at all? The answer is yes. Not only is it possible, but it is often necessary. How would such an approach contribute to a person’s overall health?
Plato also said: “The biggest mistake in the treatment of disease is that there are doctors for the body and doctors for the soul, and yet the two are one and indivisible.” From this it can be seen that the history of psychosomatics dates back to the beginning of medicine.
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In the ancient period, unity between body and soul was advocated, and health was considered a balance between the characteristics of a person and his environment. Even then, there were doctors who believed that psychological factors, especially strong emotions and prolonged anxiety, could influence the onset, course and treatment of physical illnesses.
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This understanding is also noticeable in medieval textbooks, and a great influence on the concept of psychosomatics in the 19th century was the attitude that when feelings do not manifest in physical activity, such as crying, shouting, movement, then these feelings affect internal organs, disrupting their function .
That is when the term “psychosomatics” was mentioned for the first time, which meant “that which belongs to the soul and the body”. The term comes from the Greek words “soma”, which means “body”, and “psyche”, which means “spirit, soul”.
During the last century, scientific interest in psychosomatic processes has grown and a large number of theories have been developed that focus on understanding illness as an interaction of mental and physical factors.
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Today’s definition of psychosomatics emphasizes that it is a scientific discipline that investigates the correlation of biological, psychological and social factors that cause, influence the origin, course, outcome and treatment of all diseases in medicine. Every human being is seen as a unique biopsychosocial being, as a unity of body and psyche that are in balance with the environment.
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In psychosomatics, the influence of psychological factors is especially investigated and it is considered that psychological composition, emotions, stressful experiences, conflicts and unresolved interpersonal relationships can cause physical illness.
The idea that a psychological factor has a certain role in the origin and course of every disease does not make every disease psychosomatic. Psychosomatic disease is a disease in which the psychosocial factor is the main factor in its occurrence.
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However, more and more researchers believe that every illness is actually psychosomatic. Regardless of whether we agree with that or not, what is most important in this story is not the size of the psychological factor itself, but the postulate that there is no disease in which the psychological factor does not play a certain role.
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That is why it is important to include psychological work in the treatment of physical diseases. There are several other reasons for this. Physical and mental health are closely linked, physical and mental problems often go hand in hand.
Prolonged physical illness is likely to adversely affect mood and mental state, while, on the other hand, a person’s mental health affects his physical condition. The connection between emotional distress and physical illness is well known.
Emotional anxiety is of great importance in the creation, maintenance and worsening of physical diseases, and they are also stressors, and increase anxiety and depression, or emotional anxiety, and then these conditions have an additional negative impact on physical illness.
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The psychological treatment of physical illnesses is important for getting out of this vortex or vicious circle. A person recovers from a physical illness faster if he is calm, if he hopes for recovery, and if he has support in the environment.
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And of course, this approach reduces the likelihood that people will resort to some unconstructive coping strategies, such as increased use of alcohol, cigarettes, unhealthy diet, or drug abuse.
The psychological approach to working with physical illnesses serves as an emotional valve, provides the possibility of psychoeducation, which allows a person to understand that stressful events, as well as suppression of emotions, can affect the onset of physical symptoms and diseases, and gives the person the opportunity to reconsider set life priorities.
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Psychotherapy and medicine can and should be powerful partners in treatment. With this approach, the focus is on the person, not on the disease. The person should not be observed through the diagnosis, nor should he only be treated, but it is necessary to pay attention to all events in the organism.
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Man is much more than a disease, a complete, unique and unrepeatable being who is inseparable from his environment and that is how he should be approached.