How a psychologist can help you with a physical health problem


Absolutely, your physical health can affect
your mental health. I think when we step back and think about this
it makes absolute sense that a patient who is suffering or adjusting to a long-term condition
is going to be affected emotionally as well. And we can lose sight of that
when we get quite clinical and we narrow down and try and fix discrete problems for patients. But it’s really important to
keep quality of life in mind. And that’s why looking after people’s psychological health is really very important. Luckily, I’m part of a very forward-looking clinic at the London Cardiovascular Clinic; who really recognise this that the quality of life is really important; and that patients need their psychological health to be supported at all aspects of their health journey. So, for example, before diagnosis we often need some support with the anxiety that comes up with the fear of what might be around the corner and to manage that well. A lot of symptoms can be made
a lot worse by anxiety as well. So perhaps if we’re experiencing palpitations or dizziness or even pain, if we’re very anxious that can
really amplify them and make things worse as well. And there’s a lot of adjustment that
needs to happen once we have a diagnosis and we’re learning to live with a long-term condition. Because it’s very important to realise that we can still
live life well and how to achieve that. So looking after relationships, making sure that we still keep doing things that we love and that we’re passionate about are really important. But to get there, sometimes
we do need the help of a professional as well. So, I really look forward to a time when actually
a psychologist working alongside a physical health care team is routine. And that really
helps us keep patients’ quality of life at the centre of care. At a very simple level I think
our emotional health affects our physical health. Because if we feel more optimistic and resilient,
we can really step up and take control of our condition. And we do know that patients who feel in control and
have an understanding of their physical health condition really do better as a result. In terms of the biology and the physiology
of what’s happening, we’re only really beginning to understand this whole area. But we know,
for example, from the placebo effect: the fact that our body can respond to dummy pills
or to intervention which is imaginary, if you like, that our body really does have a
capacity to heal itself. We also know for example that even quite inexperienced meditators can affect their blood pressure, their heart rate, their blood glucose levels, and
amazingly even their survival rates after cancer as a result of meditating and pulling in the
power of all the feel-good chemicals that come with the parasympathetic nervous system,
that cascade of feel-good chemicals that come when we’re really relaxed. So, there are a lot of ways that we’re only beginning to
understand around the physiology of all of this. I think it’s also really important that we’re learning a lot
about how social connection is very important as well for affecting our physical health. Being part of a team or feeling supported
it seems can have as strong an effect on our health outcomes in terms of how long we’re
likely to live as (in some cases) smoking or obesity. So, there’s a lot we’re understanding
about our psychology and our relationships and the really strong impact that that has
on our physical health. There are many ways that a clinical psychologist
can help with a physical health problem. Often by the time patients come to see me they’ve
been given a wealth of different advice and information. And it can feel a little bit
overwhelming. So often a really important part of the work I do
is having the time to sit down and pull all those strands of advice together and to help patients make the lifestyle and cognitive changes that they need to make
to really be looking after themselves well. There’s also really important work to do helping patients
to adjust to a new identity and to live well with a diagnosis
and with the struggles, the daily struggles that come
from living with long-term conditions. It’s really important to make it very clear that
life doesn’t have to be miserable or compromised, but there are many ways that we can still
live a really valuable and positive life and still do the things that really matter to
us whether that spending time with friends and family, and adjusting those interests
and passions so that they’re achievable even with the compromises we need to make. So, adjusting exercise in a way that’s workable, spending time with friends
in a way that we can still achieve is very important to maintaining quality of life
and living a meaningful and vital and joyous life. There’s an awful lot that I want to achieve
in a first session. And very importantly a lot of the patients that I work
with haven’t seen a psychologist before. So, there’s some important work to do
to demystify the whole approach. And to make it really clear that really,
we’re here as a team to work together to identify what you’re struggling with at the moment
and how we can move towards helping you live the life
that you really want to live. Often by the time patients come and
see me, they’ve seen a lot of other professionals and consultants and they’ve had to tell their
story many times and that can be a little bit frustrating. So while it’s really important
for me to hear directly from the patient what it is that they want to achieve and what they’re
struggling with and what our goals are going to be, I also think it’s really important
to spend some time really working on a plan helping a patient have a sense of where it
is they want to go and what they want to achieve and to leave the room with a few new tools
to try out a few strategies to put into place, so that when we meet the second time we can
already start to talk about what’s working and what isn’t. I also spend some time really
establishing what approach it is that the patient would like us to use together. We have a few different therapeutic approaches
that we can use, but it’s important that we
agree and talk about that so that we both know the way
we’re going to be working going forward. But the most important thing really
is that the patient walks out of my door feeling confident to come back and
with a sense of hope and optimism that we’re on the right
path to making life as good as it can be.

2 thoughts on “How a psychologist can help you with a physical health problem

  1. Good, inspiring approach. At the end, its really the life, liberty and the pursuits of happiness that matters for a good life! )

  2. Good video! You right, that’s why with busy life and stresses I open my youtube channel for relaxing music!

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