What is Behavioral Medicine?
Behavioral Medicine (Health Psychology) bridges medicine and psychology with the goal of integrating understandings of behavior, emotions, psycho-social situations and their impact on our health or physiological conditions.
As early as the 1950s we began to understand that certain psychological situations can impact health in direct ways. For instance, high levels of personal stress clearly results in poorer health outcomes, such as predisposing one to hormone imbalance, hypertension, problems with blood sugar regulation, weight gain, headaches, chronic pain, or worsening many health problems. Science and Neurobiology have come a very long way since then in understanding how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors may affect our health.
People who feel uncomfortable or upset about a current situation, whether that be related to a health, family, career or relationship issue often feel stressed, anxious, sad or unfulfilled. If the situation persists or there are multiple stressors that become chronic on constant, the body many begin to show signs of stress-related physical illness.
The reverse is also true: we can cultivate resilience and positive health outcomes by improving our emotional and psychological resources.
How Can Behavioral Medicine Help?
Knowing how our bodies are impacted by certain stressors, it is possible to improve our health condition, even if we are already diagnosed with a health problem. In fact, some health conditions can be reversed completely with simple behavior changes or by practicing a health regimen that optimizes your physiological, mental, or emotional functioning.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress Overload
- Cognitive Effects may include: Poor memory, trouble concentrating, difficulty making decisions, distractibility, pushing your "edge"
- Emotional Effects may include: Mood swings, depression, irritability, anger problems, anxiety, overreactions to unexpected events or situations, apathy, loss of motivation, fears, trouble coping or problem solving, low self-esteem
- Physical Effects may include: pain, headaches, digestive problems, muscle tension, sleep disturbances, blood pressure and blood sugar changes, skin problems, lowered immune system functioning, weight loss or gain
- Behavioral Effects may include binge eating; avoiding social contacts; increased use of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or caffeine; teeth grinding, temper outbursts, lack of flexibility
Conditions That May Benefit from Behavioral Health Treatments:
- High Blood Pressure
- Cardiac Problems, Arrhythmia
- Generalized Stress Response
- Migraine Headaches, Tension Headaches
- Chronic Muscle Tension and Pain
- Chronic Fatigue
- Back and Neck Pains or Spasm
- Reynaud’s Syndrome
- Hormone dysregulation syndromes—high cortisol, insulin, estrogen, other
- Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ), teeth grinding, muscle tension
- Certain Cardiac Arrhythmias, Palpitations
- Management of many illnesses, such as Irritable Bowel, Diabetes, Lupus, MS, Asthma, Adrenal Fatigue
- Learning stress management to reduce pain, physical symptoms
Common Behavioral Health Treatments Include:
Increased Awareness through Biofeedback
Biofeedback can help you become more aware of how stress is impacting you and learn specific interventions to reduce stress response and pain associated with it. We teach specific skills for reducing physiological reactivity, which reduces pain and calms your body. Studies show that when we can reduce our body’s response to stress, we can improve our health, positively reinforce our immune system, and regulate our endocrine (hormone) systems.
Massage, Structural Integration, or other Bodywork
To release tension you are carrying in your body and re-educate muscles to function properly. Bodywork can improve circulation and boost immune function which aids the healing process. Other gentle treatments such as Craniosacral, Lymphatic Drainage, Myofascial Release, or Therapeutic Touch or Acupressure treatments can help relax the body and reduce pain and tension.
Stress Management Education and Counseling
We work to design a program that helps you identify specific patterns that may be contributing to a chronic stress response and take concrete steps to change these in positive ways to promote your own health. Sometimes this includes addressing ways of thinking about your health situation, or practices/behaviors that can have an impact on pain and dis-ease states.
Psychotherapy and Body-Centered Psychotherapy
We help you identify thought and emotional patterns that may be contributing to physical or emotional discomfort in your body. Cognitive psychotherapy looks at the impact of thinking patterns on emotional and physical functioning. Body-centered psychotherapy helps you understand your body’s own reactions to various situations. Awareness leads to more choices for self-care, better ability to lower nervous system activation, release of body-tension or holding patterns, and ultimately more ways to manage stress and build upon resilience.
Good nutrition is essential for optimal health. You may benefit from some education about dietary changes to optimize your health situation. We may recommend certain dietary changes based on your symptoms and level of health.