On the concept of the psychological

Topoi 23 (2):177-86 (2004)
Abstract
  The idea that certain mental phenomena (e.g. emotions, depression, anxiety) can represent risk factors for certain somatic diseases runs through common thinking on the subject and through a large part of biomedical science. This idea still lies at the focus of the research tradition in psychosomatic medicine and in certain interdisciplinary approaches that followed it, such as psychoneuroimmunology. Nevertheless, the inclusion in the scientific literature of specifically mental phenomena in the list of risk factors pertaining to a specific pathological condition would seem, to say the least, problematic when not completely absent, unlike what happens for certain behavioural factors, such as smoking, sedentary life, and alcohol abuse. It is also significant that insurance companies and health and welfare services do not pay for interventions and treatment for states of anxiety, disorders of mood and of the personality, alexithymia and stress reduction, as means of prevention or treatment of somatic diseases, as instead they do for the treatment of tobacco addiction. However, as I shall endeavour to argue here, there are numerous and well grounded reasons why this different consideration of psychic conditions compared with behaviours is valid and must be maintained in the evaluation of pathogenetic risk factors
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