Living with Chronic Pain

What Is Behavioral Medicine?


Behavioral medicine is an interdisciplinary field of research and practice to prevent, diagnose, analyze and treat medical and psychological disorders. Physicians, psychologists, counselors, nurses, psychiatrists, social workers, nutritionists, etc., work together to determine how thoughts and behavior affect health. Behavioral medicine can help prevent and manage diseases, increase quality of life, and lower health care costs.

Anyone that promotes healthy behaviors to improve the well-being and health of others can be a part of behavioral medicine. Behavioral medicine includes a combination of psychosocial, behavioral, biological, and interpersonal perspectives. Undesired behaviors, such as substance abuse, chronic illness, eating disorders, anxiety, obesity, etc., are treated and managed to promote healthy behavior. Treatments may include biofeedback, relaxation training, or hypnosis.

Benefits of behavioral medicine

Enhanced lifestyle and behavior changes have proven to be beneficial. These benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Reduced illness symptoms
  • Prevention of certain illnesses
  • Improved overall health and well-being
  • Increased self-care skills
  • Better health status
  • Boosted physical and emotional feelings
  • Strengthened ability to live with chronic illness
  • Greater effectiveness of medical interventions
  • Lowered overuse of the health care system
  • Decreased overall health care costs

Areas of research and intervention

Behavioral medicine currently covers many areas of research and intervention, which includes adolescent, children and adult health. It also includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Aging
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic pain and illnesses
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Diabetes
  • Eating disorders
  • Environmental health
  • Insomnia
  • Obesity
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Quality of life
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Sports medicine
  • Substance abuse

Additional source: Society of Behavioral Medicine

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