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Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Proverbs 17:22 "A cheerful heart is good medicine, 
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."

I heard on the radio today that some huge majority (I'm bad with numbers and can't remember whether it was 75% or 90%) of chronic diseases are rooted in psychological/emotional distress. Well, I can't say I'm surprised. They say the worst thing for your body is stress, and nothing stresses the flesh and bones quite like a broken heart.

In other words, sickness of the mind or heart can easily translate to sickness of the body. The term used on the radio was "psychogenesis," meaning that physical illnesses can (and often do) originate from psychological elements.

So, heartache equals... what? headaches? migraines? ulcers? heart disease? cancer? What are the limits of this equation?

Not being a medical doctor or a pyschologist, I have no answer, but I find the possibilities fascinating—and frightening. Can you literally die of a broken heart, like the old stories say? Or is that a semantic shortcut for what really happens? Perhaps your brokenhearted condition causes your immune system to weaken, thus opening your body to increased danger from viruses and airborne diseases. Or maybe you're so depressed you forsake the habits of good health. You're too tired (read: emotionally spent) to exercise and not hungry for anything, except perhaps some comfort food (which, unfortunately, doesn't tend to have great nutritional value).

Whatever the case, psychogenesis describes a reality that perhaps too many of us are unaware of. If we get sick, we blame the weather, snotty-nosed kids, or "catching a bug." And when someone has a heart attack or cancer or a stroke, we look at the hard evidence and say it must have been that he was smoking/drinking/eating too much. Or maybe he just had bad genes. But what if the cause of many illnesses comes not from without but from within?

This begs the question: do you believe in psychogenesis of disease? And if so, to what extent? It's not an established or accepted theory in the medical field. In fact, I think psychologists are the only ones who use it with any regularity. I realize that many reasonable folks do not subscribe to this theory, preferring to accept the more traditional scientific explanations for what ails us. But to me, psychogenesis just makes sense. A lot more sense than the idea that our emotions aren't powerful enough to affect our health. Really, I haven't heard anything that made this much sense in a long time.

But I am curious whether this "broken heart-broken body" equation strikes a chord in anyone else. So... what do you think? Is psychogenesis real?

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