What We Know and What We Don’t: The Influence of Psychological Factors on Medical Illness

  • Tamara McClintock Greenberg


Early psychoanalytic researchers attempted, with varying degrees of success, to prove that psychological conflicts are complicit in medical illness. Ironically, current medical research indicates that psychological issues do in fact, play a role in the development or exacerbation of illness. The relationship between psychology and illness exists not because of the nature or symbolism of neurotic conflicts per se, though it's certainly possible that someone with a number of unconscious conflicts might be more vulnerable to the psychological states that are linked with disease. Current research suggests that it is actual physiological consequences of psychological disorders that explains the findings that some emotional factors are associated with disease.

Although many questions remain about these associations, there are at least two pathways thought to partially explain the influence of emotional functioning on the body. The first is that certain psychological disorders and personality traits affect the likelihood of engaging in high-risk health behaviors. Second, certain psychological states, when they persist over time, cause physical changes that increase the risk of disease.


Heart Attack Psychological Factor Mental Health Clinician Borderline Personality Disorder Adverse Childhood Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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