Ψ: Evaluating the bond between psychological and physical functions | THE PSYCHOSOMATIC UNITY
Every physical disorder is also a mental disorder. Every mental disorder has physical correlations. Studying in depth, through psychoanalytic and psychosomatic theory, metabolic disorders, we aim to reach a deeper understanding of health status and disorders.
Metabolic Syndrome and correlated disorders, such as autoimmune diseases, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disorders, can have multiple causal factors. The latest research findings mark as causative factors genetic background, environmental factors (such as pollution, processed foods e.t.c.), and especially psychological stress.
Stress is a situation caused by pressing situations, which the person treats as threatening. The psychological factors we assess refer to the way a person deals with anxiety and processes emotions. We also evaluate the overall psychological structures and functions. We focus specifically on a person’s ability to process, by psychological means, stressful situations, thus avoiding to get trapped in them. In addition we study a person’s representations of interpersonal relationships and their role in them, given the fact that a vast part of everyday conflicts in a person’s life stems from distortions in interpersonal relationships understanding.
We approach those factors that form the psychosomatic entity of each person, aiming at achieving better understanding of this complex structure, as well as treating the obvious and hidden internal conflicts leading to disorders.
Metabolic Syndrome and its relation to psychological functions
After years of research and clinical work we have established that specific components of Metabolic Syndrome correlate with psychological factors. The strongest correlations involve alexithymia, immature defense mechanisms used in stressful situations and other personality features.
Alexithymia, the difficulty many people have in recognizing, expressing and minding their feelings has been linked with as series of physical disorders. This defensive trait actually can increase stress, by not allowing the person to mentally metabolize conflict situations. An alexithymic person focuses on action and problem solving in a pragmatic way. They over-conform to social rules and demands, while in the same time being disconnected by their internal reality and needs. This results in the person ignoring their mental and physical limits, causing disorders. A special alexithymic component, confusion of body sensations with emotions, further aggravates health status and eating behavior. Emotions, such as anger, anxiety, disappointment, are falsely interpreted by the person as bodily sensations, namely hunger. Disordered eating in Metabolic Syndrome, as we found in an eight year study supported by other research findings, often has the form of binging episodes, especially in correlation with alexithymic traits. Through specific evaluations for each individual, regarding the special mechanisms underlying their eating patterns, we formulate the most affective therapeutic approach.
The second factor our research established as playing a major role in stress management is the ego defense profile. It consists of the type of psychological defense mechanisms activated by each individual when facing anxiety. Each defense profile is correlated with a special psychological function and provides a reliable marker of psychopathology. In Metabolic Syndrome patients we noticed the activation of both highly maladaptive and over-adaptive defense mechanisms. Thusly a mosaic of defenses is formed, reflecting in a very succinct way the psychological function within this cluster of disorders. Such patients are often well adjusted within their social context, but in a way which disconnects them from their individuality. In the same time they divide their perception of the world, others and self. Everyday life is often divided in working hours, during which bodily needs are faded by the need to achieve work goals, and quite fewer resting hours, while overstimulation continues by means of binging foods and sweets. In both cases, physical and mental boundaries are neither perceived nor respected. The reasons for this behavior can be found, according to the latest neuropsychological findings, in early situations of over-stimulation during the fetal period and first months of life. During this time verbal expression was inexistent as a function and the very existence, the self, rests in the body. Investing in the development of the representational system, via therapy through words and experience, we aim at creating stronger psychosomatic bonds.
Personality plays an important role in Metabolic Syndrome occurrence and severity, as in all psychosomatic disorders and gene expressions. When the mental factor is neglected, and treatment is limited to addressing symptoms without touching the root of the problem, patients run the risk of achieving only temporary improvement in their health status. A deeper treatment strategy cannot but include every aspect of the human being, leading to changes in their dealing with life.