Illness And Attitude | University of Oxford

Illness And Attitude

Speaker
Professor Richard Holton
Event date
Event time
17:00 - 19:00
Venue
Oxford Martin School
Broad Street
Oxford
Oxfordshire
OX1 3BD
Venue details

Lecture Theatre

Event type
Lectures and seminars
Event cost
Free
Disabled access?
Yes
Booking required
Required

Lecture 3 of 3.

Many illnesses have been thought—controversially—to have a psychosomatic component. How should we understand this? Sometimes a contrast is made between organic illness and mental illness: psychosomatic illnesses are the latter masquerading as the former. But if the mental is physical, and hence organic, this will not help. An alternative approach distinguishes between symptoms that are influenced by the patient’s attitudes, and those that are not; psychosomatic illnesses are marked by the former. Does this make the class too wide? Suppose I aggravate a bad back by refusing to exercise, falsely expecting the exercise to be dangerous. My symptoms are influenced by my attitude: are they therefore psychosomatic? I suggest that there is no sharp cut-off. I examine the role of attitudes in various illnesses, including addiction, focussing on the ways that social factors affect the relevant attitudes. I ask whether recognition of a continuum might help lessen the stigma that psychosomatic illness has tended to attract, and suggest other ways that treatment might be more attuned to these issues.