Psychological issues can affect a person's physical body. In this lesson, we'll look closer at psychophysiological disorders, including the different types, diseases affected by mental illness, and treatment.
Stan works long hours at a very stressful job. It's not unusual for him to be working late into the night on deadlines, and then he's back at his desk first thing in the morning. He gets very little sleep, and stress has become a normal part of his life.
Stan's doctor is worried about him. He has hypertension, or clinically high blood pressure. This can cause all sorts of health problems, including an increased risk of death. Stan's doctor thinks that his stress at work might be making his hypertension worse.
Psychophysiological disorders occur when a psychological condition causes or exacerbates physical symptoms. Just as Stan's hypertension is made worse by his stress levels, there are many other conditions that are either made worse or caused by psychological problems. Let's look a little closer at the types, related diseases and treatments of psychophysiological disorders.
There are two main types of psychophysiological disorders. The difference in the two involves the physical symptoms of the disorder. The first type of psychophysiological disorder, sometimes called somatoform disorders, is when physical symptoms have no physical cause. The other type occurs when physical symptoms have a physical cause but are made worse by psychological issues.
Remember Stan? He has a physical condition, hypertension, that's made worse by his psychological stress. There is a physical cause for his disorder. He has a family history of heart disease, he eats a lot of salt and he's overweight. All of these things can cause hypertension. However, his stress is exacerbating his blood pressure. Because Stan's psychological issue is making the disease worse, but is not the only cause of the disease, he does not have a somatoform disorder.
But, compare that to his friend Missy. She has nothing physically wrong with her, but for a while now, her right arm has been numb and paralyzed. The doctors can't explain it, though they suspect that depression over her mother's death might be the true cause. Missy's psychological pain is the cause of her paralysis and there's no physical cause. She probably has a somatoform disorder.
Diseases Affected By Stress
Stan is far from the only person who suffers from psychophysiological disorders, and his hypertension is only one of many diseases that can be affected by stress and other psychological disorders. Cardiovascular, or heart, conditions are some of the more common diseases that can be worsened by stress. Hypertension, like Stan's, might become worse in high-stress situations.
Coronary heart disease, including occasional chest pains as well as heart attacks, can also be exacerbated by psychological stress. As with hypertension, coronary heart disease has other causes and risk factors, including age, weight, gender and family history. But, psychological problems can make symptoms worse or put someone at a higher risk for coronary heart disease.
Another common disease that can be made worse by psychological issues is asthma. Asthma is characterized by difficulty breathing, wheezing and tightness in the chest. Asthma can be caused by many things, and asthma attacks are often caused by allergies or infection. However, emotional responses to things can trigger asthma attacks or make them worse. If a person is upset or stressed out, they might find it harder than usual to breathe. Other diseases affected by psychological disorders include irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, pain disorders and headaches.
Imagine for a moment that you are a psychologist and Stan's doctor sends him to you. His doctor has told him that he needs to deal with his stress better so that his hypertension is not as bad. How do you help Stan? There are many ways to treat psychophysiological disorders. The first line of defense in treatment is to treat the physical condition. For example, a patient like Stan might be given drugs and lifestyle change recommendations to treat his hypertension.
However, treating the physical condition is only one branch of the overall treatment plan. Therapy designed to fix the psychological issues underlying the condition is also important. Stress management techniques, including meditation and other relaxation methods, might be taught during therapy. In addition, talking about the life events that are causing stress can help alleviate the issues.
Finally, antidepressant drugs are sometimes prescribed for patients with psychophysiological disorders. However, antidepressants can be harmful if mixed with other drugs, so patients already taking medication to treat their physical condition may not be able to take antidepressants.
Psychophysiological disorders are psychological disorders that involve mental stress causing or exacerbating physical issues. There are two types of psychophysiological disorders. One type is when there are no underlying physical issues and the symptoms are completely caused by psychological distress.
The other is when there is a physical issue, but it's made worse by the psychological disorder. There are many diseases that can be made worse by psychological problems, including heart and blood pressure issues and asthma. Treatment plans can include medication for the physical problems and therapy for the psychological problems.
When the lesson is completed, you should be able to:
- Define psychophysiological disorder
- Recognize the differences between the two types of psychophysiological disorders
- List diseases that can be worsened by psychological problems
- Recall the various treatments for psychophysiological disorders