Tuesday, 22 August 2017 06:08

It's Not All In Your Mind

It's Not All In Your Mind

Through out history, people have tried to explain illness and how it affects the workings of the body. A major philosophical advance came with the work of a French philosopher, Renee Descartes, in the 17th century. He believed that the mind and the body were separated from each other. 

The body could be understood to be much like a machine but the mind could not be studied this way. This approach, known as Cartesian Dualism (drop that into the conversation at your next dinner party), led to the advance of medicine beyond the superstitions and ignorance of the middle ages and into modern times.

Helpful though it has been, it is just plain wrong and continuing to think of the mind and body as separate to each other can harm our search for good health. The mind and the body very much affect each other.

Many features of psychological distress such as anxiety and depression can be recognised through the physical symptoms they cause. For example anxiety can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling of the hands and even chest pain. Some common conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia are influenced by a person’s emotional state.

On the other hand, what is happening in our bodies can influence our emotional life. People with chronic illness or pain are far more likely to develop symptoms of depression. In fact with chronic pain, the suffering people feel from their pain can often in turn be improved by treating their depression. For all forms of mental illness, improving a person’s physical lifestyle through exercise and dietary changes is a critical part of their treatment.

When feeling unwell either physically or emotionally it is important to shed the philosophical baggage of western culture that is Cartesian Dualism. Always keep an open mind that few of your troubles are solely in your mind or completely within the physical realm. Addressing both spheres of life is important to regaining and maintaining good health.


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