Mind/body

The culture of biomedicine is the state of our health and disease are thought of and treated currently.  Biomedicine is developed from knowledge of biochemistry and human physiology that allows theories of drug interactions to develop.  Since the 1990s there has been a huge movement towards embracing evidence based medicine in order to provide better care (and most importantly: treatment that actually works).

Dichotomy is another way of grouping coexisting things that seem opposing or at least a little bit different than each other.  Sometimes it can be rooted in firm differences such as with male vs female anatomy, but there is always going to be some gray area (hermaphrodites, transsexuals, anthropologists asking “what is gender anyways?” and so on).  Others come about because they cannot be explained in the same way as their “partner”.  I think that is the case with mind vs body.  We understand a lot of the brain’s anatomy and physiology, however the overarching “human experience” seemingly cannot be explained by chemical reactions.  The different feelings we have are so complex that a neurotransmitter binding to a receptor doesn’t adequately describe them.

Further, mental illness and the various medicines developed to treat it seem to be rather unpredictable and much of their success may be solely attributed to the placebo effect.  This is a common belief about the efficacy of antidepressants, they may only directly cause a chemical effect that alleviates mood in the worst cases of depression – and those with less severe cases fall within the reaches of what a placebo can do.  Psychiatry and mental illness is full of blurred lines.  Many of the criteria for diagnosis of a mental disorder are things that healthy individuals experience regularly, instead of a symptom more cut in stone such as blood in urine.  Neurobiology is an expanding field and much of the research done in it will allow the mind and body to be understood better as a whole instead of as two separate entities.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Peter Ferszt says:

    I think it is extremely crucial to understand the dichotomy of mind and body. This is because clinicians and physicians often assume for fact that mind and body are completely separate entities; this is not true though. How a person feels or their opinions and outlook on their disease and treatment greatly affect how effective their treatment and recovery time are. It has been documented before that patients who are more positive and believe they will respond to treatment better usually do. Whether or not this is placebo or some other underlying variable is besides the point; physicians need to be honest to their patients, but also try to raise morale and keep them hopeful. Without hope, no patient will get better.

    Physicians should view the mind and body as more interconnected and as a whole, not two parts. You can treat someone’s bodily impairment, but one should also keep in mind to treat the mind, in terms of morale, so they will respond to treatment best. An example of this would be treating someone with cancer or another terminal illness. You can treat someone with chemotherapy all you want, but with the negative side effects and usually daunting statistics, you also have to keep them in good spirits. This will raise their morale, which keeps them hopeful and positive and more responsive to treatment, as well as a happier patient in general.

Leave a Reply