Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine | 2005 | Dupler, Douglas |
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Psychophysiology is the
anch of physiology that is concerned with the relationship between
mental (psyche) and physical (physiological) processes; it is the scientific study of the
interaction between mind and body. The field of psychophysiology draws upon the work of
physicians, psychologists, biochemists, neurologists, engineers, and other scientists.
A psychophysiological disorder is characterized by physical symptoms that are partly
induced by emotional factors. Some of the more common emotional states responsible in
forming illness include anxiety, stress , and fear. Common psychosomatic ailments include
migraine headaches, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), arthritis, ulcerative
colitis, and heart disease .
Historically, there has been a large chasm between the allopathic (mainstream) and
alternative medical worlds with regard to views on psychophysiology. While the allopathic
medical field continues to follow the Cartesian model of health, in which mind and body are
seen as separate, the alternative medical field stands firmly on the notion that the mind and
ody are intricately connected. In general, treatment in the mainstream medical system is
oriented toward fixing or curing isolated symptoms in the body. Alternative health providers
strive to look at the symptoms, as well as the underlying pathology, or cause. While the first
focuses on isolated parts of a whole system, the latter group strives to address the whole
eing, mind and body, emotions, and physical symptoms. They believe that mental processes
intricately affect bodily ones, and vice versa.
With a more holistic mentality, the population is experiencing an ever-progressing paradigm
shift in which the body and mind are no longer viewed as separate, but rather as intricately
elated. Medically, as well as culturally, Western society has reached the point at which
the focus is increasingly on integrative mind
ody healthcare. More patients and physicians
are choosing to utilize therapies built upon the holistic models in which psyche (mind) and
soma (physical body) are seen as one, or intimately related. They are utilizing such modalities
as meditation, yoga , bodywork, and visualization techniques in efforts to relieve overall
stress and to heal various psychosomatic illnesses.
The field of psychophysiology is leading the way to an ongoing investigation into the
intricacies of the mind
ody relationship. Applied psychophysiology focuses on the effects of
emotional states on the central nervous system, by observing and recording data on such
physiological processes as sleep rhythms, heart rate, gastrointestinal functioning, immune
ain function. Techniques used to measure such factors include
electroencephalograms (EEGs), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computerized axial
tomography (CAT) scans. In an effort to quantify the effectiveness of different treatment
techniques, the science of psychophysiology is being applied to many areas of alternative
medicine, from psychotherapy and hypnosis to bodywork and meditation. Studies of the
effects of emotional states on various physiological processes abound. For instance, it has
een shown that there is a relation between loneliness and heart disease, as well as a
connection between post traumatic stress disorder, i
itable bowel syndrome , and
omyalgia . By documenting the effects of emotions on health, this field hopes to improve
the healing capacities of treatments. Many of the studies done by psychophysiologists occur
in research institutions and universities.
There are several interpretations of what a healthy psychophysiology may look like.
However, there are common characteristics that speak of mind
ody health. Ultimately, such
a holistic state exists when internal and mental awareness becomes strong enough to create a
sense of embodiment, balance, and presence in an individual's body. Disease may be present
in such a state, yet with this underlying, holistic understanding there exists more fighting
power by which to heal. Science is proving this fact. Therapies that integrate mind
processes have been shown to aid the healing processes for numerous diseases.
When stresses, traumas, or debilitating emotional states are present, individuals may
experience physiological unrest. For example, if an individual with a known allergy to bee
stings receives such a sting, the natural reaction could be panic. As a result of this
psychological response, blood pressure and heart rate increase, digestive functions decrease,
and the person becomes dizzy. If emotional stresses or traumas of this kind remain in the
ody/mind for extended periods of time, an imbalance in the healthy system may eventually
manifest, as when individuals under chronic stress succumb to illness or disease. The field of
psychophysiology is showing that the most effective treatments are those that address the
emotional states of disease as well as the physical aspects.
Treatments for psychosomatic illnesses are being synthesized from both the allopathic and
alternative medical worlds. Methods vary from drug therapy and biofeedback to the use of
meditation, yoga, and massage therapy . Many treatments have been shown to be effective;
individuals have the freedom and responsiblity to discover for themselves the treatments that
have the most personal benefit. What is effective for one person may not work for another.
Consumers of mind
ody treatments are encouraged to evaluate options, practitioners, and
their individual needs. The field of psychophysiology conducts research to improve the
information available to consumers.
In general, treatments are selected if they complement and strengthen an individual's
awareness of the body/mind relationship. Such practices are most effective in achieving
overall states of health when addressing the mind to affect the body, and vice versa. For
example, two disciplines that have proven effective in establishing this awareness are
meditation, a mind-centered activity, and Rolfing , a form of therapeutic bodywork.
Treatments that simultaneously work with both the physiology and the psychology are highly
eneficial. This thorough approach may be achieved by pairing modalities that complement
one another. Examples include combining psychotherapy with bodywork, and certain drug
therapies with meditation, visualization, and yoga.
Meditation is an age-old process that has great potential in quieting the mind, calming the
emotions, and balancing the physiology. For centuries, Eastern peoples and their traditions
have focused on the art of meditation. Meditative techniques vary from
attention to the
eath, to chanting a mantra (a specifically pre-established word or phrase), or
to focusing one's gaze on a specific, unchanging image (a visualization technique). Focusing
awareness inward to bodily sensations may inte
upt unhealthy thought patterns, thereby
educing or preventing the effects of stress on the physiology. Studies as well as experiential
phenomena have shown that meditation decreases blood pressure, muscle pain , and
cholesterol , while improving digestion, relieving anxiety and depression , improving
immunity, and boosting energy levels. Ultimately, meditation may lead to knowing one's self,
oth psychologically and physiologically. It is out of this state of embodied presence and
attention that healing occurs.
Certain forms of bodywork have been successful in affecting the mind by working through
the body. Emotions, thoughts, and feelings may reside in the body, just as much as they do in
the mind. For example, a depressed person's body may reflect the emotional state by hunched
shoulders, sad facial expressions, and slow movements. Psychology has shown that by
adopting positive physical expressions such as a smile or improved posture, a person will
esponding and measurable effects in the mind. These relationships, through
the science of psychophysiology, are being experimentally validated.
By manipulating the structure of the body during bodywork, a healer may directly or
indirectly affect both physiological and psychological health. Benefits from this type of
therapy come from both the new changes in the physiology, as well as the changes in the
consciousness and awareness of physically existing patterns. By becoming aware of such
ody/mind relations, healer and client
eak up old patterns in the physical tissue, the mind,
and the emotions. An overall body/mind freedom is enhanced,
inging with it a greater
chance for a holistic state of health.
Research & general acceptance
Interest in the mind
ody relationship is as ancient as it is vast, and the field of
psychophysiology is researching and validating this connection. The allopathic medical world
has achieved great
eakthroughs in human health, particularly with regard to the treatment of
traumatic and life-threatening injuries and diseases. Medically, socially, and environmentally,
a more holistic and preventive approach to healthcare is being sought, one that integrates and
alances the mind
ody relationship. Much work is being done to develop new knowledge;
the field of psychophysiology is a major contributor to the exploration.
Training & certification
A variety of health professionals, such as physicians and psychologists, incorpcorporate the
principles of psychophysiology into their work. One of the objectives of the Association for
Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) is to promote professional standards of
practice, ethics, and education for its members. Certifications exist for professionals such as
massage therapists and others who perform specialized techniques that incorporate
Andreassi, John L. Psychophysiology: Human Behavior and Physiological Response.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000.
Borysenko, Joan, Ph.D. The Power of the Mind to Heal. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 1995.
Cacioppo, John T., ed. Handbook of Psychophysiology. Cam
idge, UK: Cam
University Press, 2000.
Chopra, Deepak, M.D. Magical Health, Magical Body: Mastering the Mind/Body Connection
for Perfect Health and Total Well-Being. Chicago, IL: Nightengale-Conant, 2003.
Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB XXXXXXXXXXW. 44th
Avenue, Suite 304. Wheat Ridge, CO XXXXXXXXXX8436.
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in Brain Body Medicine
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Activity 1 - Assignment
Having chosen one of the methods to diagnosing a condition you know of, either in yourself, a friend or, a relative or, simply one you are familiar with.