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  Mind-body concerns

Mind influences body and body influences mind

This could be called common sense, even though it's something of a simplification. Since the 'seventies, the burgeoning field of psychoneuroimmunology has explored links between the mind and the nervous and immune systems. Forward thinking branches of medical and biological science now talk about mind/body or body/mind to suggest that the two are a continuum, not really separate at all. Psychosomatic (i.e. mind/body) illnesses and cures, for long recognized in folk medicine and popular thinking, are now respectable.

Medical science in general is only just catching up with this shift in understanding. Some practitioners remain routed in the old paradigm, in which treating the body is the main concern of physicians, whilst the mind is a largely inconvenient irrelevance. Many others, despite having sympathy for more psychologically informed methods, have demands on their time and energies that force them to skimp on this side of treatment. A substantial and growing number sensibly pass this responsibility on to brief therapists skilled in dealing with mind-body connections.

The increasing evidence is that the most effective treatments for all kinds of conditions take into account the interlinking of mind and body.

Particular psychosomatic conditions

Physical conditions where a mind/body relationship can often very fruitfully be explored include chronic fatigue. IBS, various gastro-intestinal conditions, ME and even back pain and muscular difficulties amongst many others. Such an approach is also very appropriate for 'mystery illnesses' that defy diagnosis and for 'phantom pains'. However, it's well worth saying that the word psychosomatic does not equal imaginary. Sufferers know that such conditions feel frustratingly real.

'Psychological' conditions such as depression, anxiety, severe stress. lack of confidence, various eating disorders etc. are often accompanied by physical symptoms and also need to be considered in the spectrum of mind/body illness and cure.

Illness in general has a 'mind side'. Ignoring it doesn't pay; addressing it sensibly, without unnecessary psychobabble or naively magical expectations, does.

The fault bind

Some sufferers from conditions mentioned above may prefer to have their condition described as a physical illness. This is because of the popular misconception in which mind/body illness means that a physical illness has a source in the mind and is therefore somehow chosen. In other words, it’s the sufferer’s fault. This notion needs to be put aside entirely in an intelligent approach to therapy for mind/body concerns.

Intelligent therapy for psychosomatic conditions
  • assumes that symptoms are justified and avoids any suggestion of blame on the part of the client
  • focuses on ways of finding solutions to current concerns
  • does not require excessive introspection
  • examines relevant past experiences and deals with any trauma quickly and effectively
  • teaches life-enhancing skills of relaxation and use of imagination
  • teaches ways to meet any unmet needs
  • improves understanding of the mind/body system
  • gives the client tools with which to handle and improve their own condition

Clients will be encouraged to measure progress regularly and note improvements. Whenever possible, therapists prefer to work in partnership with doctors and other medical practitioners

 


 

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