What is health psychology?
Health psychology is a fairly new and actively developing branch of psychology. This is the science of the psychological causes of health, methods and means of its preservation, strengthening and development. This science includes the practice of maintaining human health (from conception to death). It studies a healthy personality, given the variety of individual and social norms of “health” and “illness”.
Among the main theoretical problems of health psychology, which are of interest to researchers, we can distinguish the following:
- assessment of the role of behavior in the development of the disease;
- prevention of unhealthy behaviors;
- studying the relationship between psychology and physiology (for example, achiness may increase due to anxiety and may weaken under the influence of excitement or other factors);
- evaluation of the role of psychology in the experience of the disease, the study of the role of psychology in the treatment of diseases;
- study of the motives of human behavior orienting a person to maintain healthy behavior and the formation of appropriate models.
Psychological factors are important both in the occurrence of the disease and in its treatment. Changing human behavior and reducing stress can reduce the risk of heart attacks. Understanding the psychological consequences of the disease can help alleviate clinical aspects of the disease (for example, pain) and reduce psychological symptoms.
One of the main issues of applied health psychology is how to motivate people to preserve and improve their own health? The answer to the question looks very blurred even for those who declare health as a value.
Another important research problem of health psychology is the question about the ways and means of interaction between the individual and the disease (coping, pain management, etc.). There are a large number of materials presenting a variety of options for trying to solve this problem. In particular, psychological predictors of convalescence and course of the disease are investigated. For example, it was shown that the optimism of patients undergoing panic disorder and / or agoraphobia treatment affects the effectiveness of treatment, it helps them resist stress, increases empathy, and also encourages the optimism of the doctor.
The third important problem for health psychology is the problem of self-adjustment. Even if a person has intentions to make his behavior more health-oriented it often remains unrealized. That’s because many people do not move from desire to concrete behavior. In recent decades, there has been a change in the nature of the disease: the ratio of “independent of human behavior diseases” (pneumonia, tuberculosis, etc.) and “behaviorally conditioned diseases” (cancer, HIV/AIDS, addictions) is increasing.
Modern studies show that smoking, eating behavior, alcohol consumption, etc. are the cause of many diseases. People, even realizing the danger, the harm of habitual and often pleasant ways of behavior, do not have the strength and ability to change it.