Medical psychology is a field that involves a very wide variety of different work. In a general sense, medical psychologists are focused on ways that a person's health and his mindset are connected. When people are sick, they may become depressed or upset, which can potentially make it harder for them to recover. It’s also true that many diseases are ultimately caused by behaviors, and sometimes people need psychological help to change their habits and develop more healthful lifestyles. People who study medical psychology may also offer some of the basic counseling that is usually needed in a hospital setting.
Studies have shown that depression and other emotional problems can hinder a person’s recovery or increase his chances of becoming sick. People who are healthy tend to be happier, and vice versa. This connection is sometimes for obvious reasons, as negative emotions often reinforce negative behaviors, but doctors have also found other connections which aren’t quite so simple. Some studies seem to show that the immune system even benefits from a positive outlook and disease survival rates can go up when people avoid depression. Medical psychologists are usually interested in studying these connections and understanding why they exist.
Another common job for medical psychology specialists is counseling those who suffer from chronic pain. This is often done to help them deal with emotional pain that comes from their condition, but there are also more practical elements. For example, a medical psychologist may show the individual mental exercises that can help in coping with pain.
Some people have a hard time following the advice of medical experts. In some cases, this can even be a problem when people have been diagnosed with something very serious such as heart disease. For example, it can be hard for a doctor to convince someone to quit smoking, even if that person knows his life is on the line. Medical psychologists can be helpful in these situations because they are usually experts in teaching people to overcome their reticence and helping people self-motivate.
When people are suffering from long-term or grave illnesses, depression is often a natural consequence. This depression can also affect the sick individual’s family, and this is a problem that frequently pops up in hospitals. A medical psychology specialist can help both the family members and the person with the illness to overcome these negative feelings and improve their quality of life.