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Psychophysiological Disorders: Definition, Types, Causes and Treatment

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  • 0:05 Psychophysiological Disorders
  • 1:02 Types
  • 2:22 Diseases Affected by Stress
  • 3:50 Treatment
  • 5:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

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.

Psychophysiological Disorders

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.

Types

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.

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