psychosomatic medicine

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psychosomatic medicine

(sī'kōsōmăt`ĭk), study and treatment of those emotional disturbances that are manifested as physical disorders. The term psychosomatic emphasizes essential unity of the psyche and the soma, a combination rooted in ancient Greek medicine. Common disorders caused at least partly by psychological factors include childhood asthmaasthma
, chronic inflammatory respiratory disease characterized by periodic attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, and a tight feeling in the chest. A cough producing sticky mucus is symptomatic.
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, certain gastrointestinal problems, hypertension, endocrine disturbances, diabetes, and possibly even heart disease. In most psychosomatic conditions there is some interaction between psychological factors and physiological predisposition to the illness. Sigmund FreudFreud, Sigmund
, 1856–1939, Austrian psychiatrist, founder of psychoanalysis. Born in Moravia, he lived most of his life in Vienna, receiving his medical degree from the Univ. of Vienna in 1881.

His medical career began with an apprenticeship (1885–86) under J.
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, at the end of the 19th cent., laid the scientific groundwork for psychosomatic study, with his theoretical formulations based on new methods of treating hysteriahysteria
, in psychology, a disorder commonly known today as conversion disorder, in which a psychological conflict is converted into a bodily disturbance. It is distinguished from hypochondria by the fact that its sufferers do not generally confuse their condition with real,
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. His methods were reinforced by the psychobiology of the American psychiatrist Adolf Meyer and the research of the American physiologist W. B. Cannon on the physiological effects of acute emotion. The treatment of psychosomatic ailments may involve a medical regimen as well as some form of psychotherapypsychotherapy,
treatment of mental and emotional disorders using psychological methods. Psychotherapy, thus, does not include physiological interventions, such as drug therapy or electroconvulsive therapy, although it may be used in combination with such methods.
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 for the patient. In recent years, psychosomatic medicine has been subsumed under the broader field of behavioral medicine, which includes the study of a wider range of physical ailments. Understanding the psychological causes of various ailments is crucial: studies suggest that a large percentage of deaths are rooted in behavior. In the 1960s, concepts related to conditioning gained prominence, as researchers found that humans and animals could learn to control their autonomic nervous system responses, usually involved in psychosomatic complaints. Emerging from this research came the technique of biofeedback that provides individuals with information concerning their own physiological responses, which they may begin to alter through conscious techniques of control. The newest area of research related to psychosomatic medicine has been called psychoneuroimmunology, the study of the interactions of the endocrine system, central nervous system, and immune system. Researchers believe that studies of these biological systems can help to show how an individual becomes vulnerable to illness.


See J. M. Kuldau, ed., Treatment for Psychosomatic Problems (1982); C. P. Wilson and I. L. Mintz, ed., Psychosomatic Symptoms (1989).

References in periodicals archive ?
From paralysis to fatigue: A history of psychosomatic illness in the modern era.
Specifically, the findings shed new light on how stress, depression and other mental states can alter organ function, and show that there is a real anatomical basis for psychosomatic illness. The research also provides a concrete neural substrate that may help explain why meditation and certain exercises such as yoga and Pilates can be so helpful in modulating the body's responses to physical, mental and emotional stress.
Todd, "A conceptual model of psychosomatic illness in children.
At the same time, her depiction of psychosomatic illness is less complex than Flaubert's carefully stylized novel or Effi Briest, which Fontane described as "wie mit einem Psychographen geschrieben." (9) In particular, Nathusius fails to address the effects of repressed sexuality, which Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer would examine some forty years later in Studies on Hysteria (1895).
"These results do not support the prevailing hypothesis that a repressive style may be a risk factor for psychosomatic illness," the investigators reported.
An account on his website says: "At six, a psychosomatic illness robbed the young Freddie of the power of speech and he spent two years away from his family recovering."
He explained: "At six a psychosomatic illness robbed the young Freddie of the power of speech, and he spent two years away from his family recovering."
Once labelled "yuppie flu" and derided as a psychosomatic illness, ME is still widely misunderstood and a poor relation in terms of funding and research compared with other debilitating diseases.
Although asthma was once thought to be a psychosomatic illness (i.e., imagined, or "all in your head,"), today we know that's not true.
"For years, there were people who thought it was a psychosomatic illness, and there are some people who still do believe that," Dr.
Discussing concepts ranging from the self-fulfilling prophecy and psychosomatic illness to the concept of God being within each one of us and all of nature, to the bases for successful and happy living that underlie so many varients of "pop" psychology, The Roads To Truth examines the common thread between all these occurances--the acknowledgement of the paramount importance our thoughts play within our lives.