Psychosomatic and Biopsychosocial Medicine: Body-Mind Relationship, Its Roots, and Current Challenges

  • Luigi GrassiEmail author
  • Thomas Wise
  • David Cockburn
  • Rosangela Caruso
  • Michelle B. Riba
Part of the Integrating Psychiatry and Primary Care book series (IPPC)


The basis of psychosomatic medicine is a fundamental philosophical debate between mind (a subjective phenomenon that is linked to a sense of consciousness) and body (which is empirically demonstrable). Starting from the Greek tradition to the Cartesian res cogitans-res extensa dichotomy, the chapter illustrates the role and importance of a biopsychosocial approach in all the spheres of medicine as a way to contrast the still evident modern medicine reductionism. The evidence coming from biological, psychological, and social science, merging in biopsychosocial (or psychosomatic) integrated view in medicine, is also discussed. Although the term psychosomatic can be misleading, since, as Alexander underlined in the first issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 1939, it may imply dichotomy between psyche and body (soma). If however we understand psychic phenomena as nothing but the subjective aspect of certain bodily (brain) processes, this dichotomy disappears, becoming medicine of the whole person, away from scientistic reductionism and toward the embrace of the complex in clinical practice.


Psychosomatic medicine Biopsychosocial approach Cartesian dichotomy Psychoneuroimmunology 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luigi Grassi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas Wise
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • David Cockburn
    • 6
  • Rosangela Caruso
    • 7
    • 8
  • Michelle B. Riba
    • 9
    • 10
  1. 1.Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical SciencesUniversity of FerraraFerraraItaly
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryInova Fairfax HospitalFalls ChurchUSA
  3. 3.Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  5. 5.Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  6. 6.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Wales Trinity Saint DavidLampeterUK
  7. 7.Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical SciencesInstitute of Psychiatry, University of FerraraFerraraItaly
  8. 8.University Hospital Psychiatry Unit, Integrated Department of Mental Health and Addictive BehaviorS. Anna University Hospital and Health AuthoritiesFerraraItaly
  9. 9.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  10. 10.University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center and Psych Oncology ProgramUniversity of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer CenterAnn ArborUSA

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