My last post warned of the dangers in treating the patient’s symptoms as an inventory of body parts to be discretely assessed. An antidote to this misguided thinking is in recognizing the mind-body connection. Understanding the factors which may have contributed to a patient’s illness helps us address and eliminate the cause, rather than merely alleviate the symptoms, of a condition.

The fact that the mind and body work as one, with our physical and emotional reactions intricately intertwined and affecting our neuro-immune pathways, makes it imperative that we expand our approach to both assessment and prescription. This necessarily includes our assessment of emotional symptoms. Do we recommend treating uncomfortable emotional states with drugs so that patients are less aware of them or do we dig deeper and discover their real role for that person?

If we are looking at the person as a whole, then terminology is important. Emotions deemed “suppressed” are in fact just expressed in another way. The body will find a way to manifest them. So, if we avoid separating mind and body, emotional states of illness will be regarded not as suppressed, just expressed in another way.

When assessing a patient’s presenting symptomatology, it becomes fundamentally important to establish what our framework or approach will be. Are symptoms an expression of a DSM “disease category” or the body’s cry for help? Will you categorize their symptomatology into “disease entities,” pointing to prescriptions either on the biological level (such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories) or emotional lever (such as antipsychotics)?

Much is at stake in the framework a doctor brings to bear upon symptoms. Not the least of which is what comes next in the treatment. I’ll take on that topic in my next post.