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We live in a society that largely treats the mind and body as separate systems that do not affect one another. Our medical system reflects this current belief – We have psychologists and mental health practitioners who largely focus on treating the mind, and doctors who largely focus on treating the body. But the emerging field of psycho-neuro-immunology tells a very different story where cognition directly impacts the body and the state of the body directly impacts cognition. There is no separation between the two.
I am concerned people are seeing their doctor with physical complaints which are actually being driven by psychosocial factors in the psychology realm, and that people are going to psychologists with cognition issues who have organic disease processes responsible for their psychological state. A system that only looks at ½ a person will inevitably have blind spots.
Imagine the frustration of a patient who has been working on their ‘depression’ for the last 5 years when they come to find out they have hypothyroidism that has been creating a low energy state which is interpreted by the mind as ‘depression’. Or imagine a patient who goes to their primary care physician for depressed mood and are immediately placed on an SSRI and labeled with ‘depression’ for the rest of their lives. In reality they were grieving a loved one or getting over a breakup or struggling with a job change or experiencing the spectrum of emotions that come with being human and would be better served by a counselor who could help process life's transitions.
My hope is that the medical field and psychological field will come together to provide holistic, whole person care with the broad view that the mind and body are in relationship and directly affecting one another. Imagine if psychologists and doctors worked alongside one another to treat a patient with depression - where the psychologist got to work on orienting around how the patient was relating to themselves, and the doctor got busy diving into potential physiologic explanations for symptoms of fatigue and depression. I see so much power in this form of medicine!!
Calling all mental health practitioners – Let's begin a dialogue around creating a more holistic whole person system where the worlds of mind and body are no longer held separately.