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Over the last 40 years the proliferation of the biopsychosocial (BPS) model across clinical and theoretical research has shown that psychosocial factors can be shown to be causes, co-factors, or sequelae of many illnesses. Scientific presuppositions about the BPS model have been grounded firmly in psychobiological, psycho-behavioural, sociobiological, and socio-behavioural processes. According to the allostatic load model, stressful factors can be psychological ones or any other factor that is able to modify the stress-response system; these might include genetic factors or life experiences. Personality profiles, in particular, seem to be predictive of responses to different stressors. Stress responses preceding or following illness are clearly related, from a psychobiological point of view, to different personality traits, which themselves correlate to specific defence mechanisms. Neural processes underlying these mechanisms interact with the biological substrate of somatic illnesses. Recent advances in brain imaging with regard to neurobiological and behavioural interactions of empathy and alexithymia support the crucial role of the (psycho) therapeutic relationship across the whole of medical practice. Psychotherapies operate as biological factors on mind, brain, and body; indeed it is necessary to reconsider the doctor-patient relationship as a psychotherapeutic process. The basic methodological triad of observation (outer viewing), introspection (inner viewing), and dialogue (inter viewing) becomes essential in medical practice and in scientific research. Psychoanalytic processes such as transference, resistance, the therapeutic alliance, and attachment have been reconsidered from a neuroscientific perspective and reconceived as moments of meeting of the procedural memory and are therefore considered relevant to the relationship with patients in primary care. Indeed, they are useful to an ethical approach to understanding the meaning of illness, and they also influence the results of treatment projects. Because all these aspects impact upon illness duration and quality of life, affecting both the individual concerned and his or her family, the economic consequences of this psychosomatic approach are important in both general and specialist medicine. Medicine is becoming, and will become even more in the future, an integrated science; human illness and the maintenance of good health may be better understood if all medical disciplines are considered as a whole. The domain of psychosomatic medicine has now extended to coincide with that of medical practice. There is increasing evidence, not only in psychiatry, but in all medical fields, that care of the mental well-being of a person is essential for effective care of the body. Not only mens sana in corpore sano, but also corpus sanus in mente sana.


S Fassino. Psychosomatic approach is the new medicine tailored for patient personality with a focus on ethics, economy, and quality. Panminerva medica. 2010 Sep;52(3):249-64

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PMID: 21045782

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