Ask an expert
Question

05 Apr 2006

do we create physical disease with the mind?
There are lots of books out about it and stuff and then there is of course the alternative medicine guys who seem to believe it as well.
Do you know what I mean? Example: You iss the attention of your family so in order to get more attention from them you create a disease such as cancer that comes and goes and keeps them having to look after you. Or you get a cold so that you dont have to face your boss again.

These are just some examples, but do you psychologists believe in this stuff?? I know it has been proven that being sad can depress the immune system, but can we actually make ourselves sick.

I have scoliosis and now because of it I cant play the drums and the drums were my best friend. But to be honest I dont see any benefit of me having scoliosis it just bloody hurts! To hell with back pain, break my arm any day but dont give me constant unforgiving back pain!! I cant take it anymore! And there is no cure for my scoliosis anywhere!
Answer 464 views
Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

Maybe we don't entirely create them, as we know beyond doubt that many other factors --- genetics, environmental chemicals, viruses, and so on --- cause disease. I think it's equally unquestionable that the mind can influence this process, for good or for ill ! Mind can affect one's immunity, and modify one's chemistry in ways that can be helpful or unhelpful in regard to the development of disease.
Now, in the example you mention, of a person seeking attention, there's no evidence at all that anyone ever developed cancer so as to attract attention --- what does happen, certainly is that whatever illness or symptoms a person has, can be exaggerated, and their way of handling it can be warped, so as to attract extra attention, in someone feling especialyl needy of attention. What the psychological background does here is not to create the illness, but to shape our illness-related-behaviour.
The effects are more general than the examples you suggest would imply. If you're having conflict at work and with your boss, the unresolved stress could lower your resistance such that if cold or flu viruses were around, you'd be more likely to become infected. But the stress alone could never create a cold without the virus being available.
Youe own example is a good one, in that no psychological factors whatever could "cause" scoliosis. But scoliosis doesn't inevitably cause unrelieved severe back ache ( and I know what you mean as I suffer backache myself). There can be a vicious cycle, in that scoliosis may under various circumstances create some degree of backache, which becomes rather depressing, which amplifies any pain one has, which becomes more depressing, and so on.
Muscle spasm, a primary component of the pain, is especially susceptible to being amplified by stress and depression
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical examination, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes
33% - 9380 votes
No
67% - 19432 votes
Vote