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Relationship between psychology and medicine


In this article we will talk about the relationship between medicine and psychology; two disciplines that have a common object of study: the human being; and we will argue about  why physicians should study psychology , or rather, why should psychology be included in the medical career.

Mind and body connection

It is known that psychology and medicine share the same goal: the well-being of people. We also know that the emotional state influences the physical state and vice versa; This direct relationship is what we call the “mind-body connection . 

This connection was postulated by Rene Descartes (1596-1650) in his theory of Cartesian dualism or dualism of substances; This theory tried to show that the mind through the pineal gland could exert control over the brain.

Although there are different theories about the mind and body connection, psychology is seen as an unscientific subject by many medical practitioners. We clearly cannot compare it to surgery, emergency medicine, and many other fields of medicine. But that does not mean that psychology is not a relevant discipline.

Psychology-medicine relationship

Psychology, like medicine, uses scientific methods to learn about the various afflictions of our species and how to alleviate or cure them. For this reason, we believe that this should be taken as a real branch of medicine, since psychology relies on evidence and research to carry out its theories.

There is an intimate link between a person’s mental state and their physical health. In many cases, the two areas, the mind and the body, are inseparable for diagnosis, treatment and healing.

In the first half of the 20th century, there were many opportunities for interaction between psychologists and the medical profession , and while psychologists won several battles over mental health medical conditions, they were still viewed by medical practitioners as untidy, claiming that psychological methods lacked research.

Psychology, for most of the 20th century, was not considered a necessary part of medical education and psychologists were considered complementary in the practice of Medicine.

More and more medical schools have begun to recognize the importance of psychology within medicine; Their questions about the role of “psychic” factors in illness – especially mental illness – led some physicians and psychologists to conduct research, and on the basis of data from more than one clinical case of psychology they were able to argue that students from Medicine need to be informed about psychological issues. 

An example of the psychology-medicine duality is the health-disease process , where the human being is approached in its complexity, trying to interrelate different levels of analysis and taking biological, psychological and also social aspects.

This process allows us to get out of dichotomous reductionism, where only the psychological, or the social or the biological is addressed separately.

Empathy and the doctor-patient relationship

It is necessary that a doctor knows how to approach different psychological aspects in his consultation, in addition to being clear about the necessary processes that help improve the well-being of his patient. Within these processes is the empathy .

There are different statements about whether a doctor should be empathetic to his patient or not. Some positions emphasize the importance of not getting involved with their patients , the argument being that the independent physician must be able to make objective decisions regarding the care of their patient.
Other positions emphasize that successful treatment of patients depends on interactions between the patient and the physician .

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Empathy is a fundamental element for any type of human relationship. But what usually happens in the relationship between health professionals and patients is that the empathic bond develops depending on the natural capacities of each professional , since in general, they lack the necessary training to implement it.

There needs to be programs that build a solid foundation for empathic doctor-patient interaction , and provide them with the necessary tools to be effective communicators and medical experts.

It is also important that the physician has sufficient communication skills to convey the sensation he is experiencing to the patient.

Psychological intervention in health

Health psychology is in charge of promoting health and providing help and information about preventive measures and treatments for both physical and mental illnesses. This branch of psychology also practices biopsychosocial styles – proposed in 1977 by the North American psychiatrist George Engel – and promotes the approach of comprehensive and complementary medical and psychological care.

The role of the health psychologist is to help the patient manage and work through a chronic illness , based on psychological theories and developmental methods that provide a healthier quality of life.

Starting in the 1980s, health psychologists have made significant contributions to the development, testing, and dissemination of psychological interventions for people undergoing stressful medical treatments or coping with chronic illnesses.

Helping people change their outlook on disease and preventing them from falling into susceptibility to preventable diseases is also another area in which a health psychologist can play a critical role. Generally, to intervene on a patient, the psychologist must require an advanced diagnosis of his pathology.

Psychological intervention can also work to create improvements in cases where medication is needed to treat a particular medical condition. By fostering an optimistic attitude towards pathologies, many negative conditions can be successfully combated and possibly even reversed over time.

Optimism in the face of illness

Probably many times we ask ourselves: is it possible that having an optimistic outlook on life improved our health?

First of all, we will clarify that we should not conclude that being optimistic makes people healthier, since it could be that good health is what makes people more optimistic, and not the other way around.

In the US, a recent study showed the relationship between optimism and health. It was shown that people who have a greater capacity to see things in a positive way are twice as likely to be mentally and physically healthy. The results of the study range from  optimistic mothers who give birth to healthy babies, to patients with chronic diseases who choose a positive posture and are less affected than others by the same pathology.

Optimistic people show positive results ranging from increased life expectancy to positive changes in physical and mental health . Optimism is negatively correlated with depression , anxiety, anger, the perception of daily discomfort, physical symptoms and emotional fatigue, on the contrary, it is positively correlated with life satisfaction, positive physical and mental health, less predisposition to mental disorders and increased self-esteem.


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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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