Psychosomatic disorders

Specialty of Psychiatry

What are psychosomatic disorders?

Psychosomatic disorders are diseases which involve both mind and body – where mental factors play a significant role in the development and severity of a disease.

There are no specialists practising “psychosomatic medicine” per se – it is a field where our understanding is still relatively nascent. However, all medical professionals understand that there are many diseases which can be aggravated by our mental state. In aiming to treat the whole person, they often recommend tackling feelings of stress and anxiety as part of treatment for the physical condition.

What kind of conditions are psychosomatic?

Many diseases and conditions can be affected by the mental state of the patient, however some conditions are more prone to the state of the mind of the individual than others.

At the moment, there are a number of conditions which are thought to be most aggravated by mental factors:

Psychosomatic disorders often have negative effects on the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system, and the cardiovascular system. They can also have negative effects on the quality of life of a person, and can have adverse effects on a person’s ability to function properly.

Note that psychosomatic medicine does not cover physical illnesses which are caused entirely by your mental state. These are known as somatoform disorders. In psychosomatic medicine, there is always a physical cause to an illness, as well as a significant mental factor.

How are psychosomatic disorders treated?

Since there is a clear physical cause involved in psychosomatic disorders physical treatments are generally involved. However, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness, and other forms of therapy may also be recommended with the aim of tackling the mental factors of the disease.

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