The mind-body connection has been a studied by philosophers and medical professionals for centuries. It is a phenomenon of intrigue; one that leads to unending questions and mystery. As far back as ancient times medical professionals recognized the power of influence the body and mind can have on each other. Early physicians spoke of illness occurring when the mind was out of sync with various body parts (Koenig, 2002 pp 43).
Centuries later, the birth of professional psychology expanded this concept through exploration of various psychological states (i.e trauma, hypnosis, catharsis, mesmeric trance) and their influence on the body’s physical functioning. During this exploratory period, scientists believed that the neurological system was the sole communication source between physiological and behavioral events (Viljoen, Panzer, Roos and Bodemer, 2003). They would later find that they were mistaken.
Understanding of the mind-body connection expanded over time as scientists found that the immune system played a significant role. As the science of immunology expanded, reports of physical disease in conjunction with stressful experiences increased. One relationship that evidences this is the relationship between depression and immune system function (Shattuck, 2016).
For example, a 2016 research study examined immune system function in individuals who were diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. Researchers found that those individuals who were younger than 28 years of age had impaired immune function. In another example, research findings suggested that prolonged psychological stress or social stress resulted in inflammation -an immune system response- in the body. When this inflammation continued on a long-term basis, the result was physical disease (Shattuck, 2016).
Another 2016 study examined this relationship as well. Delany et al. (2016) focused specifically on child populations. Children are perpetually growing and rapidly advancing from one development stage to another. In light of this, researchers questioned what role physical development played in the relationship between immunity and depression during puberty. The relationship was reportedly similar to that found in adults (Delany et al., 2016).
For more information on the connection between immunology and mental health, visit the following websites and articles:
Azar, B. (2001). A new take on psychoneuroimmunology. Monitor on Pscyhology, 32(11). doi:10.1037/e304072004-016
Delany, F. M., Byrne, M. L., Whittle, S., Simmons, J. G., Olsson, C., Mundy, L. K., & ... Allen, N. B. (2016). Depression, immune function, and early adrenarche in
children. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 63228-234. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.10.003
Koenig, Harold G. (2002). The Link between Religion and Health: Psychoneuroimmunology and the Faith Factor. New York, US: Oxford University Press. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 21 May 2016.
Shattuck, E. C. (2016). The dilemma of immune stimulation and suppression during depression: One step closer to a solution?. Brain, Behavior, And Immunity, 5415-16. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2016.02.004
Viljoen, M. m., Panzer, A., Roos, J., & Bodemer, W. (2003). Psychoneuroimmunology: from philosophy, intuition, and folklore to a recognized science. South African Journal Of Science, 99(7/8), 332-336.
Ziemssen, T., & Kern, S. (2007). Psychoneuroimmunology--cross-talk between the immune and nervous systems. Journal Of Neurology, 254 Suppl 2II8-II11. doi: 10.1007/s00415-007-2003-8