Health Psychology: The Branch of Psychology You Need to Know

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There’s a lot of schools of thought and branches of science, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. The world is a varied and wide place, there’s a lot to be learned and a lot to discover. Even with us humans, there’s still a long list of things that’s still a major mystery. One such field that’s relatively new and isn’t known by many is health psychology.

Health psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses mainly on the multiple factors (social, psychological, and biological elements) that influence and affect our health. They study how different people manage or handle different ailments, and why some patients find it difficult to adhere to proper medical advice. It also focuses on effective methods to manage health, control levels of pain, and alleviate negative health habits. 

Preventive Practices as Focus

Everybody knows the saying “prevention is better than cure”, but it’s something health psychology takes into the heart. Health psychology delves into the “why” of things: why don’t some people consistently go to the doctor? Why don’t some patients drink their medicines? Why do people abuse alcohol and cigarettes?

These questions aren’t exactly answered with biological functions: sometimes, people truly just feel different. And this is exactly where health psychology shines. It focuses instead on the topic that needs to be addressed: how the behavior is formed, how it’s influenced, and what can be done to change it. Health psychology empowers people into making better decisions for themselves, even before they’re sick. It encourages healthy practices to prevent those with a genetic history of illnesses to fall from the very disease that their family is prone to.

Pain and Stress Management

Painkiller addiction isn’t something to be laughed at. It’s a serious illness that needs immediate addressing- but before the rehab comes to the discussion of how it goes there in the first place. Oftentimes, pain becomes so chronic that we can’t help but take muscle-relaxing pills to alleviate the pain. This then results in the said painkiller addiction. But health psychology teaches pain management in different ways. It gets to the root cause, namely whatever’s causing the disease, and then utilizes behavioral therapy to manage the pain instead of relying on painkillers. 

Lifestyle Improvements

Addressing what needs to be done to improve your life is also among health psychology’s most valuable points. Looking at your current lifestyle, pinpointing the dangers that pull your quality of life down, and rectifying them is hard, but that’s exactly why it should be done. The multiple factors that affect your lifestyle, like your social and psychological elements in play that either enable bad habits or prevent good habits from forming.

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It’s important to remember that our mental health is directly connected to our lifestyle choices, but also making the right lifestyle choices is difficult when not in the right mental state. That’s why improving lifestyle through both preventive and recuperative methods is encouraged by health psychologists, as they’re the only way to improve the actual quality of living.

Helping Families Come to Terms

Health psychology is still ultimately psychology, dealing with mental health and emotional stress. Reducing stress, creating better coping or defensive mechanisms, and treating sleep difficulties are all part of health psychology’s umbrella. This is particularly useful when managing grief, as it’s something that’s often overlooked. Having a family member undergo palliative care requires coming to terms with what may come. And is what health psychology can help with: managing anticipatory anxiety or pre-emptively managing stressful situations.

Processing grief and loss is something that we all have to do, especially when the family is going through a medical situation. It’s quite jarring to be forced to come to terms with an abundant overflow of emotions, but that’s exactly what health psychology is for: properly managing emotions.

Encourage Self-Care

What is all of these but not self-care? It’s also something that the study of health psychology promotes. At the end of the day, self-care is the best form of preventive measure against any disease. Many factors play into the right form of self-care, after all, health is very complex. Having a professional help you with figuring out your psychological habits that have a biological or emotional root can help you better control your lifestyle and take better care of yourself.

Health psychologists do not just tell you to stop smoking or drinking, instead, they look towards what can enable you to stop your bad habits and take better care of yourself. Assisting people in valuing themselves through properly assessing the situation and pointing the patient to the right medical is the very heart of health psychology.

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