The biopsychosocial approach systematically considers biological, psychological, and social factors and their complex interactions in understanding health, illness, and healthcare delivery. Fundamental to these tenets are:

  • Biological, psychological, and social factors exist along a continuum of natural systems.
  • Systematic consideration of psychological and social factors requires application of relevant social sciences, just as consideration of biological factors requires application of relevant natural sciences. Therefore, both the natural and social sciences are ‘basic’ to medical practice.
  • Humanistic qualities are highly valued compliments to the biopsychosocial approach, which involves the application of the scientific method to diverse biological, psychological, and social phenomena as related to human health.
  • While the biomedical approach takes the reductionist view that all phenomena are best understood at the lowest level of natural systems (e.g., cellular or molecular), the biopsychosocial approach recognizes that different clinical scenarios may be most usefully understood scientifically at several levels of the natural systems continuum.

   Although pain research has traditionally focused on the sensory modalities and the neurological transmissions identified solely on a biological level, more recent theories (integrating the body, mind, and society) have been developed. The most heuristic perspective is known as the biopsychosocial model, with pain viewed as a dynamic interaction among and within the biological, psychological, and social factors unique to each individual. Pain is not purely a perceptual phenomenon in that the initial injury that has caused the pain also disrupts the body’s homeostatic systems which, in turn, produce stress and the initiation of complex programs to restore homeostasis.

   Observed behavior is likely to have developed because it is adaptive. It has been naturally selected, i.e., individuals who are best adapted survive and reproduce. Behaviors may even be sexually selected, i.e., individuals who are most successful in gaining access to mates leave behind more offspring. The mind is therefore equipped with ‘instincts’ that enabled our ancestors to survive and reproduce.

   A strength of this approach is that it can explain behaviors that appear dysfunctional, such as anorexia, or behaviors that make little sense in a modern context, such as our biological stress response when finding out we are overdrawn at the bank.

   The way children learn and develop varies from culture to culture and is sometimes specific to each individual society. While the resulting cognitive processes may be unique to each culture, the way in which they are handed down from generation to generation is often similar. Vygotsky, the father of the Sociocultural perspective, cites three methods which are used to teach children skills: imitative learning, instructed learning, and collaborative learning.

   For many years, researchers have been attempting to explain behavior, memory, and cognition in biological terms. With Vygotsky's work as a guide, researchers are now using a dual approach to understand what makes and shapes a person's reality and identity. Researchers are taking the social background, language, beliefs, and other cultural and social influences into consideration instead of regarding the mind as nothing more than a collection of neurons and synapses.

   Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, explained the human mind as like an iceberg, with only a small amount of it being visible, that is our observable behavior, but it is the unconscious, submerged mind that has the most, underlying influence on our behavior. Freud used three main methods of accessing the unconscious mind: free association, dream analysis and slips of the tongue.

   He believed that the unconscious mind consisted of three components: the 'id' the 'ego' and the 'superego.' The 'id' contains two main instincts: 'Eros', which is the life instinct, which involves self-preservation and sex which is fueled by the 'libido' energy force. 'Thanatos' is the death instinct, whose energies, because they are less powerful than those of 'Eros', are channeled away from ourselves and into aggression towards others.

   The actual self is not viewed as a special part of a person, but rather as the whole person considered from a particular point of view. When the self-concept accurately depicts the actual self, it is said to be congruent. When it inaccurately depicts the actual self, it is said to be incongruent. When people’s self-concepts are in tune with their actual selves, they are free to let their human potential manifest itself. The Health Guardian can facilitate the movement toward congruence, which is a move to a more fully functioning biologically and psychologically healthy person.

   The full meaning of the term “human being” will be clearer if the reader will keep in mind that “being” is a participle, a verb form implying that someone is in the process of being something. The significant tense for human beings is thus the future—that is to say, the critical question is what I am pointing toward, becoming, what I will be in the immediate future.

   From the humanistic perspective, the goal of human existence is to fully actualize the potential inherent in one’s humanness. The Health Guardian gains access to this potential when the self-concept allows its presence to develop into awareness. Humanists emphasize that the actual self has to appear or be accurately depicted in conscious awareness if it is to affect behavior.

   When conscious thought displays the actual self, a person is most free to become fully functioning. The person is able to make choices that express his or her authentic values and to have available the undistorted full range of his or her life possibilities. The ideal, fully functioning person is in a state of congruence—that is, no disharmony exists between the self-concept and the actualizing tendency of the actual self.

   In life, a person does not achieve this absolute state. Actualization is not a static and stable condition that one becomes. Authentically, being human involves the movement toward, not the achievement of, the full actualization of the potential that is inherent in human be-ing.

   The Health Guardian conceptualizes therapy as an engagement to match the story of the self-concept with the authentic story. There are three principle elements of the humanistic perspective used to approach mental wellness:

  • First, it emphasizes the self as being, or becoming, as in humane be-ing. The self is always in process or in flux, ever changing rather than stable.
  • Second, the self is experienced; it is not merely a cognitive construct. There is an actual self and that this actual self can be experienced directly.
  • Third, the actual self is an agent, or has the ability to act.

   The cognitive perspective is concerned with “mental” functions such as memory, perception, attention, etc. It views people as being similar to computers in the way we process information (e.g., input-process-output). For example, both human brains and computers process information, store data and have input and output procedure. This has led cognitive psychologists to explain that memory is comprised of three stages: encoding (where information is received and attended to), storage (where the information is retained) and retrieval (where the information is recalled).

   It is an extremely scientific approach and typically uses lab experiments to study human behavior. The cognitive approach has many applications including cognitive therapy, evidence-based self-care, and eyewitness testimony.

   Behaviorism is different from most other approaches because when using this perspective the Health Guardian views people (and animals) as controlled by their environment and specifically that we are the result of what we have learned from our environment. Behaviorism is concerned with how environmental factors (called stimuli) affect observable behavior (called the response).

The behaviorist approach proposes two main processes whereby people learn from their environment: namely classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning involves learning by association, and operant conditioning involves learning from the consequences of behavior.

Behaviorism also believes in scientific methodology (e.g., controlled experiments), and that only observable behavior should be studied because this can be objectively measured. Behaviorism rejects the idea that people have free will and believes that the environment determines all behavior. Behaviorism is the scientific study of observable behavior working on the basis that behavior can be reduced to learned S-R (Stimulus-Response) units.

   Biological psychologists explain behaviors in neurological terms, i.e., the physiology and structure of the brain and how this influences behavior. Many biological psychologists have concentrated on abnormal behavior and have tried to explain it. For example, biological psychologists believe that schizophrenia is affected by levels of dopamine (a neurotransmitter).

   This perspective has helped psychiatry take off and help relieve the symptoms of the mental illness through drugs and to a lesser degree nutrition. However, other disciplines would argue that this just treats the symptoms and not the cause. This is where health psychologists use the finding that biological psychologists produce and look at the environmental factors that are involved to get a more holistic picture.

   Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function. A mental illness can make you miserable and can cause problems in your daily life, such as at school or work or in relationships. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of holistic care, talk therapy, and medications. Many mental health concerns are preventable, and even curable when addressed early. Regardless of your status, the Health Guardian should be the first step towards getting help.

   It is not possible to reliably tell whether someone is developing a mental health problem; however, if certain signs appear in a short space of time, it may offer clues. Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains. If you have any mental concerns, talk with your Health Guardian. Most mental illnesses don't improve on their own, and if unaddressed, a mental illness may get worse over time and cause serious problems.

   There are various ways people with mental health issues might receive treatment. It is important to know that what works for one person may not work for another; this is especially the case with mental health. Some strategies or treatments are more successful when combined with others. A patient with a chronic mental disorder may choose different options at different stages in their life. The majority of experts say that a well-informed patient is probably the best judge of what treatment suits them best.

   Everyone needs sleep, but its biological purpose remains a mystery. Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body – from the brain, heart, and lungs, to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance. Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.

   Health Guardians are using smartphone apps, bedside monitors, and wearable items (including bracelets, smart watches, and headbands) to informally collect and analyze data about their sleep. Smart technology can record sounds and movement during sleep, journal hours slept, and monitor heartbeat and respiration. Using a companion app, data from some devices can be synced to a smartphone or tablet or uploaded to a PC. Other apps and devices make white noise, produce light that stimulates melatonin production, and use gentle vibrations to help us sleep and wake. All this technology is used to help us learn about ourselves, and better manage our sleep.

   Scientists continue to learn about the function and regulation of sleep. A key focus of research is to understand the risks involved with being chronically sleep deprived and the relationship between sleep and disease. People who are chronically sleep deprived are more likely to be overweight, have strokes and cardiovascular disease, infections, and certain types of cancer, than those who get enough sleep. Why? we don’t know, but we can leverage this observation. Sleep disturbances are common among people with age-related neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Many mysteries remain about the association between sleep and these health problems. Does the lack of sleep lead to certain disorders, or do certain diseases cause a lack of sleep? These, and many other questions about sleep, represent the frontier of sleep research.