Oct 28

Psychosomatic medicine is rooted in the idea of a mind-body connection, which recognizes that what a person experiences emotionally and mentally can affect his or her body. The medical community now fully recognizes the value of psychotherapy: today it is state of the art in Western clinics to offer patients complementary counseling or psychotherapy if they have to deal with severe diseases like cancer, genetic diseases, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular diseases and others, or if patients require surgery. Often, therapeutic counseling is also offered if someone has to deal with infertility, psychosomatic illness, allergies or other burdening physical problems where psychological factors might play a part.

psychotherapy has been shown to improve compliance and to reduce fears and phobias related to treatment procedures. It can further help reduce anxiety and depression, and to communicate better with the physicians. Observational studies evaluating the psychosocial status of patients with severe diseases like cancer even showed that patients with low levels of social and emotional support, or that suffered from chronic depression were more likely to die from cancer. Studies by S.Levy, for example, showed that breast cancer patients that had poor adjustment and lack of social support had a lower natural killer cell activity, and that natural killer cell activity predicted disease progression and disease recurrence.

However, even if some results of similar studies have shown insignificant results and though there has still lots of research to be done to find out about the correlation of well-being and physical recovery when having to face diseases, the fact that complementary counseling during treatment and recovery can strongly improve quality of living and contribute to a more balanced emotional state calls to consider counseling or psychotherapy as an important part in a holistic treatment approach. Way too often, patients recovering from surgeries or other effects of severe diseases develop depression or anxiety – and often enough it is on us – good friends or relatives – to help them regain their mental wellbeing and strength as well.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2010)

Jun 04

If everything goes well for Paul, he enjoys his life. But then there are the times when anxiety robs his sleep and even during the day he suffers from the fear of being seriously ill. A headache could be an indication of a brain tumor; swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, or a birthmark could be a reference to cancer; the memory of a particular sexual adventure raises fear of having been infected with HIV.

Paul spends lots of time every day examining his body for suspicious signs and to gather information about possible symptoms. The Internet turns out to be a diabolical companion: vast amounts of information are openly available, but sometimes their reliability is doubtful, or certain contradictions turn up. Doctor visits also provide only temporary relief: couldn’t the doctor have been wrong or missed something?

Often people burdened by fears like Paul’s are intelligent, physically fit and live a very healthy lives. Their fears severely constrict the extent to which they can enjoy their lives. Short spells of relief are inevitably followed by the next phase of panic-like feelings of worry.

When suffering from such fears there is no need to be ashamed. This form of anxiety has causes that are not the affected persons’ fault and can be treated with strategies applied during psychotherapy or hypnotherapy – provided that there is a readiness to attend regular counselling sessions for a certain period. During the treatment new ways of dealing with these chronic concerns will be developed, relieving the heart from the heavy cloak of fear.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2010)