Health Psychology


According to the American Psychological Association, “Health psychology examines how biological, social and psychological factors influence health and illness.” Specifically, health psychology involves applying psychological principles and interventions to physical and psychological health through behavior change. In so doing, those who work in the field of health psychology take into consideration a client’s biological, psychological, and social factors to understand and develop a treatment approach with their clients.

What are some commonly-treated conditions in health psychology?

Psychologists who work in health psychology settings may treat a host of conditions including and not limited to: adjusting to terminal illness, alcohol abuse, cardiovascular disease, cholesterol, chronic diseases or illnesses (e.g., Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), HIV and AIDS), chronic pain conditions, diabetes, hypertension, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, sexual dysfunction, stress, tinnitus, tobacco use, and weight management.

How might anxiety impact my physical health?

Anxiety is often pervasive and may not go away even when the stressor is gone. We know that anxiety activates the fight, flight, and freeze response in order to address the feared stimulus. As such, your body makes certain preparations for any of the respective actions. As this process unfolds, significant physiological changes occur. For example, muscles contract, heart rate increases, sweating increases, digestion slows, adrenaline is released, urine production decreases, and liver produces more glucose. Now, imagine that these physiological processes are happening most of the time and rarely slow down. Constant strain on the heart may exacerbate high blood pressure. Diabetes can be difficult to control as glucose levels may be higher than normal at unpredictable times. Digestive problems can occur as food is not being digested at a normal rate.

What types of health psychology treatments are available?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the primary treatment modalities in treating anxiety and health related issues. Research has demonstrated that CBT is effective in managing many health-related issues such as chronic pain, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, and tinnitus. Other behavioral interventions include relaxation training, which can involve a multitude of more specific treatments such as mindfulness or meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, and visualization.

Are you looking for help with anxiety and health problems?

Please contact us if you are interested in speaking with someone about anxiety and the impact on your health issues. We’d be happy to schedule you for a one-on-one session with a PhD-level psychologist who has health psychology experience. We also offer virtual reality therapy, a recognized exposure based treatment modality, at no extra charge and part of your regular session fee.