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Stephanie's picture

Taking into Account the Mental & Physical

Throughout our discussion of psychosomatics, I was consistently reminded of the power of the mind/ brain.  I believe no matter what the injury, disease, or symptom (which may all be 'physical'), it is always important to account for the mind/ brain because it can influence our injury, disease, or symptom.  At some during our discussion on Tuesday night, someone mentioned "inquiring about patients' mental state and trying to instill hope & optimism."  I believe doctors should always consider a patient's mental well being when treating any injury, disease, or symptom (physical or mental in nature).  Taking a patient's mental well being into account can assist a doctor in making more appropriate treatment options for the patient.  

These ideas of 'taking into account a patient's mental well being' are displayed in the recent article I read for this upcoming week's discussion on pain- the "How Real is Your Pain? " by, Scott Haig, in TIME, Feb. 20th, 2007.  In this article two people have two drastically different self-report measures about the level of their current pain- the one man who looks like he is the most pain physically, reports feeling "1" on a 1 to 10 scale where 1 is almost no pain and 10 is the worst pain imaginable- this man has arms broken and bent at a weird angles, and he doesn't rate feeling much pain.  On the other hand, a woman with no apparent "visible" injury reports feeling the worst pain ever- 10 (she prefers to use 11 or 12 even).  Now in this specific case, I think mental well being comes into play- our mental states can determine or influence how we feel physically and our physical states can determine or influence  how we feel mentally- I think this interaction is demonstrated by these two patients.  Why would the one patient most visibly in pain report the least pain?  probably b/c his mental well being.   He may interpret this scale differently than other patients and maybe his mind is in a mental state which 'eases his pain.'  Or the woman who is in the most pain?  maybe she is in a mental state that makes her hypersensitive to pain, so any little ache or pain feels much worse because of her current mental state.  Doctors must take into account how each of their mental states is functioning in order to plan the most appropriate treatment and to comfort the patient.    

The mind, brain, and body, and the mental and the physical, cannot be distinctly separated in medicine.  The physical injuries, diseases and symptoms humans may manifest are consistently under the influence of the human mind.  Therefore, I believe we should take all of these aspects into account when treating patients.  


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