Archive for February, 2013

Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism Treatment..The Psychological Approach

How are you treated from Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism? Mental disorders versus physical disorders treatment and what’s the difference?

Graves' DiseaseAny mental disorder is considered “abnormal” functioning of cognition, mood, emotions or behavior. “Abnormal” means out of the norm established by the majority of people. Abnormal is characterized by the 4 D’s- deviation, distress, dysfunction and danger. Any physical disorder, regardless if it is physical or autoimmune disorder is also abnormal- it deviant from the “health” norm, it causes distress and dysfunction and it could be dangerous, I mean, yes, you can die.

 

Why I am bringing up mental versus physical disorders treatment? Because, regardless of their origin, they should be treated with similar understanding and similar approaches. How’s that?

All mental disorders are discussed by scientists in the frame of different models, to be more specific there are about 400 therapy approaches, including biological, all aiming to treat mental disorders. So why the physical disorders should be approached and treated only in accordance with the biological model- i.e medication, RAI or surgery for Graves’ Disease for example?

Many mental disorders are discussed as a result of biological and chemical dysfunctions: low activity of the neurotransmitter gamma- globulin acid (GABA) may lead to anxiety disorders, schizophrenia is explained with dopamine overactivity and depression is linked to low serotonin and norepinephrine levels. Hormones are the other factor, found to influence some mood disorders, especially the cortisol, the stress hormone. And this hormone affects people with Graves’ disease as well! Accordingly, the supporters of bilogical model apply drug therapies, electroconvulsive therapy or even brain surgeries in attempt to correct these abnormalities. Very similar to the conventional treatment options for Graves’ disease, as you see: your hormones are not right and we will fix that with drugs (or RAI or surgery). These are the only approved by the conventional medicine methods of treatment, not only in the USA, but worldwide.

Mental DisorderHowever, mental disorders, luckily, are not treated only in accordance with this biological- medication method. As I already mentioned, 400 different psychotherapies are used worldwide as well. So, then why an autoimmune disease like Graves’ disease cannot be treated equally, with other available options? Let’s make a parallel between different models and treatments:

Psychodynamic model: The three forces that define abnormal behavior, according the father of this theory Sigmund Freud are the instincts (ID), rational thinking (or Ego) and moral standards (Super Ego). The Id functions on the pleasure principle and includes instinct needs, sexual impulses and desires. The ego is connected with the experience acquired through the years and it acts on the reality principle, and provides information regarding whether or not it is safe to express impulses generated by the Id. Superego represents the moral authority and individual’s values and ideals. Those three forces are adjusting and developing through the years and if these adjustments are successful, that leads the individual to normal psychological development. If the process fails, the person gets fixated in certain stage of development and that leads to abnormal behavior and abnormal functioning. How about we consider as well Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism as a result of this conflict between ID, Ego and Superego, but it manifests itself not on a mental, but physical level?

Behavioral model supports the theory that all actions are result of certain experiences in life and how the individual responds to the surrounding environment. Accordingly, the behavior can change in response to the environment. Behavioral theory distinguishes a few forms of conditioning that can shape human behavior: operant conditioning, related to receiving rewards for certain behaviors, classical conditioning, based on the associations made by the individual when two events occur simultaneously and modeling, which pertains to the observation of certain behavior in others. Behavioral approach seeks what particular behaviors are causing the abnormality and tries to replace these behaviors by applying the principles of modeling, operant conditioning and classical conditioning. How about we consider Graves ’ disease as a result of the environment and your behavior is causing that physical “abnormality” called Graves’ disease?

Cognitive model explains abnormality as a result of inaccurate assumptions, thoughts, attitudes and conclusions that may lead to abnormal behavior of the individual. Another reason found by cognitive model that may result in abnormal functioning is the illogical thinking and overgeneralization. People often follow illogical ways of thinking and draw self- harming conclusions, which sometimes result from one single, small negative event. How we consider Graves’ Disease as a result of these inaccurate assumptions and actions and according to them people get  sick with Graves’ disease, instead of depression?

Humanistic- existential model suggests that when children are not raised in positive environment they create inaccurate view of themselves and their life experiences, which may generate psychological problems later on in their lives as adults. Abnormality is viewed by existentialist as lack of responsibility regarding life and clients are encouraged to take responsibility of their lives, chose a different course, different actions and greater meaning. How about redesigning your life and taking different course and action, different from the one that caused Grave’s disease on a very first place?

These are just few examples of different approaches regarding mental disorders, but why not the same models be applied to physical disorders like Graves’ disease? If you consider just the biological approach and interpretation, I believe that you are grossly reducing your chances of recovery. Because the body is not a machine, which parts, when not functioning properly, should be changed, repaired or worst of all, removed or destroyed to fix the problem.  Why people cannot realize that they are way more complex than machines and the brain and mind play an equal role for the onset of Graves’ disease? So, let’s look at the ‘whole person”, not just part of it that needs to be repaired.

Then I believe the healing will begin!

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