This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 14 table of contents.

Summary: Psychology and Medicine

Many different disciplines lie at the intersection of psychology and medicine. The field of psychosomatic medicine deals with psychological influences on illness. Psychoneuroimmunology looks for the mechanisms of mind/body interactions by studying mental and behavioral effects upon the immune system. Rehabilitation psychology is devoted to helping rehabilitate accident victims and people recovered from injuries, illness, or major surgery.

Behavioral medicine is an extension of behavioral psychology into medicine. Like all behavioral psychology, the emphasis is upon observable, measurable actions (behaviors) and their consequences. Health psychology is aimed at preventing medical problems by promoting good health using psychology. The focus can be on behaviors, emotions, thought patterns, or anything else that affects health.

The concepts of stress and addiction are central to Health Psychology. Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome was introduced to psychologists in the early 1950s. Selye observed that traumatic events were enough, by themselves, to induce illness in rats. Later researchers like Arnold Lazarus have focused on the specific emotions which make up the stress response and how they may be modified by re-interpreting situations to evoke a different emotion.

Addictive behaviors contribute to more medical problems than any other behaviors. Addiction to alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, and prescription drugs all have distinctive effects which can be very harmful in the long run. Treatment of addiction commonly follows the alcoholics anonymous (AA) model. Self-cure of addiction is possible for many people, but often it requires repeated attempts. People can have "positive addictions" which are those which encourage health and happiness.


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