Written by Professor David Clark-Carter, Professor of Health Psychology.
Imagine you have energy-sapping fatigue or a long-lasting pain which affects your life. You have sought medical advice but, even if tests have been conducted, you are left with no diagnosis.
Psychologists have long recognised that this situation can be linked to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. However, while psychologists can see that such psychological problems are a perfectly understandable consequence of chronic (i.e. long term) debilitating health conditions, there is a danger of seeing the causal link as going in the other direction. Accordingly, the chronic condition can be seen as being the consequence of an underlying psychological state rather than the other way around.
The situation isn’t helped when people around the sufferer, be they family, friends or members of the medical profession, deny that there is a real physical condition. This, in turn, can lead to an understandable suspicion when psychological interventions are offered as a way to deal with the physical symptoms and lessen the psychological ones. This may be seen as supporting the notion that the condition is a consequence of a psychological state. However, that is far from the truth. Even when a diagnosis of a condition is made, if no medical cure is available psychological interventions could help the sufferer to deal with the physical symptoms.
By acquiring techniques to deal with physical symptoms, sufferers can feel more in control of their own lives and get away from a feeling of helplessness. Even when a medical intervention can be prescribed to alleviate the physical symptoms, such as pain killers, these are unlikely to be a long term solution and can have their own problematic side effects. The pandemic has led to conditions such as long-covid for some people. Greater awareness of this condition could lead to greater understanding of those with other chronic conditions.
Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology
Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.
For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:
- MSc Health Psychology – Course Profile
- Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology – Course Profile
- The Home of Health Psychology, Staffordshire University
- Undergraduate & Postgraduate Psychology Courses at Staffordshire University
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