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What is Psychosomatic Medicine?

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  • Written By: D. Waldman
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2016
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Psychosomatic medicine is a class of medicine that focuses on the brain's ability to influence or control certain aspects of physical health. This school of thought believes that a person's mental state, unrelated to any presence of brain damage or mental illness, plays a large part in his overall health and well-being. Psychosomatic medicine may be more widely recognized by the common statements associated with the practice, including "mind over matter" and the "power of suggestion." The most common treatment plan used in psychosomatic medicine involves psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or behavioral therapy.

While most doctors believe that any medical condition is caused by a disease or disorder, a traumatic injury, or even simple genetics, others disagree. Doctors who practice psychosomatic medicine do not argue that the majority of health problems are commonly caused by one or more of the above factors; however, they also believe a person's state of mind and environment can play a large part. A simple example would be sitting at a table with friends and talking about a rash. Chances are, as the conversation progresses, at least one or more people at the table will start to itch just thinking about the rash.

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The reliance on psychosomatic medicine is used more in psychology and psychiatry. Having a positive outlook about a broken leg will typically not make the broken bone heal itself any quicker. On the other hand, tackling more emotional disorders, such as depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, may be much more effective if the patient wants to get better. If a person lets his mind believe that his depression will never go away, chances are, it won't. If he convinces himself that it is just a temporary condition that he will recover from, his chances of overcoming the condition are dramatically improved.

Psychosomatic medicine also plays a huge part when applied to more serious diseases, such as cancer or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Studies have shown that patients battling potentially deadly diseases can remain functional for much longer periods of time as long as they don't lose hope in their situation. Psychosomatic medicine has shown that cancer patients may experience a slower progression of the disease and cancer growth if they convince themselves that the cancer can be beaten. This area of medicine has also shown that patients with a bleaker outlook often experience elevated levels of tumor growth and overall decline of health.

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