Health psychology is a branch of psychology dealing with how biological, psychological, and social factors come together to influence the health of the individual. The biopsychosocial model is one of the largest theories involved in health psychology.
Proponents of health psychology are often promoters of health and focus on examining health policies in order to examine how they influence behaviors of individuals as well as how to improve teaching and communication in the health community. They may also work extensively in determining effective interventions to improve health as well as prevention strategies. Health psychologists may also be involved in topics such as quality of life in terms of terminal illness and chronic illnesses, as well as working in patient-provider relations to ensure appropriate techniques are used to improve adherence to treatment regimens.
Main areas of research and discussion in health psychology include pain and pain management, sleep and health, personality and health, and stress and coping. How sleep deprivation, personality type, and coping style affects health are some of the sub-topics in these areas. Not only does health psychology examine how these behaviors affect our mental health and well-being, it also involves the health sciences by examining the systems of the body in depth and how they are affected by certain behaviours. Psychoneuroimmunology, which examines the immune system, is heavily influenced by stress, for example, and can lead to various physical disorders.
Image Credit: Marek Jacenko / Wikimedia Commons
Different treatment approaches used in health psychology include biofeedback, coping techniques, guided mastery, cognitive-behavioural therapy, operant conditioning and classical conditioning. All of these treatment methods seek to guide the individual into understanding their problematic behaviour and then changing it using a variety of approaches. This can help the person lead a healthier, happier life, and avoid the onset of physical or mental illness.