Psychosomatics


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Psychosomatics

 

in the broad sense, a term used in medicine to designate an approach to the explanation of disease in which special attention is focused on the role of mental factors in the origin, course, and outcome of somatic disease.

Psychosomatics in the narrower sense, or psychosomatic medicine, is a branch of modern foreign medicine that has developed from the application of the theory and techniques of psychoanalysis to the interpretation and treatment of neuroses of organs and organic diseases. It has become widespread in the Netherlands, the Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland, and other Western European countries and in the United States. According to proponents of psychosomatic medicine, about 50 percent of all organic diseases in the industrially developed countries are psychogenic. Not only hypertension, gastric ulcer, and hyperthyroidism are regarded as psychosomatic diseases, but also bronchial asthma, diabetes mellitus, glaucoma, and rheumatoid arthritis. Attempts were made to work out a system of correspondences between various organic diseases and specific character and personality traits (H. F. Dunbar, United States) and between various organic diseases and types of emotional conflicts (F. Alexander and the Chicago school).

Endocrine disturbances are believed to play a special role in the mechanism by which these diseases originate (somatize). The principal mode of therapy is psychotherapy, which seeks to uncover the links—unknown to the patient himself—between a person’s emotional conflicts and the development of somatic symptoms. The theoretical foundation of psychosomatics was influenced not only by psychoanalysis but by schools of 20th-century idealist philosophy, such as existentialism (L. Binswanger), and by 20th-century German philosophical anthropology, including the medical anthropology of V. Weizsäcker.

REFERENCES

Alexander, F. Psychosomatische Medizin. Berlin, 1951.
Dunbar, H. F. Emotions and Bodily Changes, 4th ed. New York, 1954.
Weiss, E., and O. S. English. Psychosomatic Medicine, 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.-London, 1957.
Weizsäcker, V., and D. Wyss. Zwischen Medizin und Philosophic Göttingen, 1957.
Rattner, J. Psychosomatische Medizin heute. Zürich, 1964.

D. N. LIALIKOV

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