When thinking about the supposed power of prayer, keep in mind
that it is obvious that being religious and praying are not all-powerful
cure-alls; these actions don't deliver health to all good people; indeed,
if religion has any influence at all, overall it is weak. Why would an all
powerful God choose to be weak? As in other areas, I believe it would
not be wise to put much faith in the results of researchers who are
"believers" of the religion being studied, just as one can't totally
believe scientists (or lawyers) employed by the company making the
drug being evaluated, or a therapist evaluating a type of
psychotherapy or a self-help method he/she has developed. Expect to
see a lot more "religion improves your health" articles because religion
is impossibly confounded with stress reduction, positive expectations,
wishful thinking, self-acceptance, a sense of mastery, and so on.
Human warmth heals people but undisclosed spiritual prayer probably
doesn't. However, face to face praying is human warmth.
Hypochondriacs seek help from physicians four times as often as
the ordinary person, costing them distress and costing all of us
millions of dollars. The continuous fear of having a serious illness can
be overcome by exposure therapy or by a cognitive-behavioral course
which explains our expectation of a serious illness (Avia, et al, 1996).
Shouldn't psychological causes be investigated more? Yes. Don't we
need to know why we assume a health problem is physical much more
often than we think it is a psychological problem? Yes. And we need to
learn how to prevent feeling "sick and tired" all the time (Donoghue &
Siegel, 1996) but, as Swedo & Leonard (1996) point out, "it's not
always all in your head." We cannot forget biology; cancer is not a
psychological disorder, although it's influenced by psychological
factors. Tiredness will also be discussed in the Depression chapter.
Allergies have many causes, some psychological but many in food,
in pollen, cleaning products, fabrics, medications, cosmetics, dust and
other aspects of the work and home environment (Faelten, 1987).
Stress often makes the reaction to irritants worse.
Pain afflicts close to 30% of all Americans! It is the most common
medical symptom and the second most common psychological
symptom. It interferes with work, with relationships, with enjoying life,
and it costs a lot of money. Headaches (15% of men; 25% of
women) and backaches are the most common and debilitating pains;
both are frequently associated with stress, but the physical
mechanisms are not well understood. Over the last ten or 15 years,
the picture of how headaches are caused has become more and more
complex--not clearer. This is because science is finding some of the
pieces of the pain puzzle. It seems that genes, neurotransmitters,
hormones, muscle tension (even botox helps some), various parts of
the brain, blood vessels, and other parts sometimes play a role in a
headache. It is an amazing process. Several new drugs, such as
sumatriptan for migraine, have been developed that are effective on
certain types of headaches but some are very expensive, others loose
their strength, some have damaging side effects. We still have a long
way to go. However, if I had frequent serious headaches, I'd seek help