It is a common belief that any health problems are the result of the influence of any external factors on the person: the environment in which the person lives, its atmospheric and temperature features, food and liquid, which he consumes, etc. Undoubtedly, there is some truth in this, but the main reasons for any diseases are not in the environment, but in the inner world.
The relationship between human health and human thoughts was already known to mankind in ancient times: ancient Greek thinkers were convinced that human consciousness had a direct impact on his body. For this reason, at the very beginning of the development of medicine, the fundamental position in the treatment of any disease was the unity of the soul (“psycho”) and body (“soma”).
Adapting it to modernity, one can safely say that medicine was psychosomatic already then, and the connection between emotions and deviations of separate organs of the human body, which is the central problem of modern psychosomatic medicine, can be traced even in Plato’s philosophy, which lived more than two thousand years ago.
And the relevance of this issue with each new generation becomes only higher. So what is psychosomatics? We will answer this and many other questions in this article.
What is psychosomatics?
The term “psychosomatics” is used to refer to illnesses and illnesses caused by various psychological causes. Today, psychosomatics is an interdisciplinary field of study that encompasses a range of disciplines:
- The sociological aspect of psychosomatics is the study of the relationship between psychosomatic disorders and people’s living conditions and cultural traditions;
- The psychotherapeutic aspect of psychosomatics is the search for methods of changing ways of behaving and reacting in a way that is destructive to the body;
- The psychological aspect of psychosomatics is the study of disease-related behavioral responses and psychological mechanisms that affect physiology;
- The physiological aspect of psychosomatics is the study of the effects of emotions on physiology;
- The medical aspect of psychosomatics is the treatment of diseases.
Based on all this, there is no single definition of psychosomatics. On the one hand, it implies a scientific direction that establishes a link between psyche and physiological processes and investigates the influence of psychological experiences on various functions of the body.
On the other hand, the term “psychosomatics” means specific phenomena that have appeared as a result of the mutual influence of mental and physical. On the third hand, psychosomatics is understood as a branch of medicine dealing with the treatment of psychosomatic disorders.
And, of course, psychosomatics is a special trend in medical psychology, studying the interrelation of mental factors and body processes.
To sum up, we can say that psychosomatics is both a scientific field and the psychosomatic diseases themselves, and psychosomatics are both doctors and patients. But in order to avoid terminology confusion, many specialists try to consider the term “psychosomatics” in the appropriate context or use more scientific terminology.
The only thing scientists agree on is that psychosomatic medicine is a branch of medicine, and in psychology it is customary to use the name “psychosomatic approach”.
And if in the first case it is spoken about diseases which already exist in the person, and the doctor is considered to be the specialist, then in the second case the main role remains for the psychologist, and the sphere of his interests includes not only the patient and his illness, but also the situation of illness as the factor of a psychosomatic situation.
At the moment, there are various classifications of diseases and disorders, which can be called psychosomatic. According to the studies of the Soviet and Russian psychiatrist and psychotherapist B.D. Karvasarsky, conditionally psychosomatic illnesses can be divided into two groups:
- “Big” psychosomatic diseases: peptic ulcer, hypertension, bronchial asthma, ulcerative colitis, thyrotoxicosis, neurodermitis, rheumatoid arthritis – the so-called “classical seven”;
- “Small” psychosomatic diseases: neurotic disorders of internal organs.
In all, there are several hundred psychosomatic diseases and disorders. These include drug addiction, alcoholism, appendicitis, insomnia, weight problems, eye diseases, inflammation, head, neck and throat disorders, birth defects, respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, dental and gum disease, skin and bone problems, blood diseases and disorders of the internal organs, female and male sex diseases, cancer, mental disorders and many others.
In order to understand the manifestations of psychosomatic disorders, we can cite as an example the classification of one of the outstanding specialists in the field of psychosomatics and psychoanalysis, D.S. Rozhdestvensky. They are distinguished by psychosomatic reactions and psychosomatic disorders.
Psychosomatic reactions are mental reactions that represent psychological protection, i.e. somatized in response to various kinds of emotional experiences.
They are formed in cases when a person directs his or her mental activity on himself or herself, being unable to direct it to an external irritant. In other words, a person directs negative energy at himself and thus destroys his body. Anything from slight redness to asphyxiation can be a symptom of this.
Psychosomatic reactions are usually characteristic of children and teenagers. They are short-lived and disappear with the disappearance of negative situations.
Psychosomatic disorders are already more serious and persistent and are divided into several subgroups:
- Conversion syndromes are a projection of mental reality on the body area. They are symbolic and can be interpreted as an attempt to resolve a conflict situation. They affect the senses and arbitrary motor skills. This can include loss of sensitivity, hysterical paralysis, etc.
- Functional syndromes are physiological support for emotional states. They affect the respiratory system, motor system, gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular and genitourinary systems. In most cases, they appear in the form of functional disorders of individual organs.
- Psychosomatosis – implies psychosomatic illnesses in a narrower sense; pronounced body reactions to chronic conflict situations. Can become chronic and even incurable. These include diseases of the aforementioned “classical seven”, as well as infectious diseases, coronary heart disease, cancer and others.
Emergence of diseases (somatization)
As you know, human emotions include psychological and biological components. By means of restraint of emotions the biological component is activated, that leads to failures in work of biological nervous system and occurrence of bodily illnesses.
Speaking more simply, diseases in this case arise as a result of absence of psychological processing of emotions. The suppressed emotions create emotional tension which is a link between mentality and a body. This emotional tension partially or completely blocks motor and vegetative manifestations and leads to changes in the work of the vascular system and internal organs.
At the first stage it can be expressed in functional infringements, but at frequent repetitions and the big duration can cause irreversible organic changes in organs and fabrics, becoming the reason of psychosomatosis.
All people have psychosomatic reactions in different ways, but in any case we are talking only about negative experiences that people are not always able to properly express or sublimate. That’s why psychologists are increasingly saying that you need to learn how to respond emotionally and always try to maintain good health.