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date: 10 August 2020

Summary and Keywords

Psychosomatics concerns those physical disorders not caused by an organic event but caused by psychological events. These disorders, called “psychosomatic,” may involve different organs and systems and it is possible a wide range of cases of possible psychosomatic disorders.

The term psychosomatics itself represents all the complexity and tension of this discipline. It contains a dualism that contrasts with the theory at the heart of psychosomatic medicine—the functional and synergistic unitary nature of soma and psyche.

The psychosomatic problem represents the original nucleus at the inception of the psychoanalytic movement that concerns itself precisely with the physical disorders devoid of an anatomopathological substratum. With the development of the libido theory and the resulting hypotheses on the development of neurosis, Freud proposed a model that integrates the somatic, psychic, and social component, and it represents in a convincing way physical diseases that occur as a result of psychological events. Freud created two distinct approaches in the explanation of psychosomatic disorders: the first makes use of a system of conversion of the psychic into the somatic, and the second raises problems of biological nature, in the sense that a psychological factor (anxiety) would directly activate the sympathetic system and therefore the organic functions it controls.

The conflict theory was the first major paradigm of psychosomatic medicine, and most efforts by the first generation of psychosomatists aimed to test this hypothesis and identify psychological conflicts that were typical of patients suffering from diseases considered psychosomatic in nature. Some scholars—such as Federn, Goddeck, Deutsch, Dumbar and Alexander, Schultz-Hencke, von Weizsäcker, Schilder, Schur, de Mitsherlich, de Boor—starting from the Freudian psychoanalysis, emphasize a particular psychoanalytic mechanism interpreted as a cause of psychosomatic disorders. The panorama of contemporary psychosomatics is certainly much more varied than the classical one, and new proposals and conceptions have emerged alongside the psychoanalytic model. The main contemporary models aim to integrate the knowledge of medicine and psychoanalysis into a coherent and unitary theoretical whole. The goal is therefore the unification of the ontological and scientific dualism that sees the body of medicine as opposed to the psyche of psychoanalysis. The contemporary theories all converge in the analysis of the original mechanisms of formation and development of subjectivity that is named according to the search to address ego, self, or identity.

Keywords: psychosomatic disorders, hysteria, organic symptomatology, psychosomatics, psychoanalysis, conversion, ego, self

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