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Psychology in Medicine: Emotions, Behaviors, and Disease

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

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Course Description

Have you ever wondered where the terms “cold feet” or “butterflies in your stomach” come from? Have you ever wondered why zebras and other animals don’t get ulcers? This course will answer these and other questions related to the role of psychology in the onset, course, and treatment of medical conditions.

This course will provide an overview of the principles and applications of health psychology, “the study of how biology, psychology, and social processes work together to impact a person’s health and illness.” Students will learn how a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors influence their physical health and will gain an appreciation of the connection between our mental and physical well-being.

Health psychology topics will be discussed in terms of acute and chronic illnesses (e.g., cancer, chronic pain) and behaviors (e.g., sleep, diet/exercise, substance use). While we will discuss topics that are relevant to all age groups, the course will focus on issues that are relevant to teenagers and young adults. We will discuss what stress is, the links between stress and physiological functioning, and how stress reduction promotes better mental and physical health. Students will learn the role of sleep in brain functioning (e.g., “Why am I so tired during first period?”), why health behaviors are so hard to change (e.g., “Why can I not motivate myself to exercise?”), and why some behaviors (even playing video games!) can seem addictive. This course will be interactive, discussion-based, and will include information that you can apply to your everyday life. For example, students will monitor one of their own health behaviors during the course and will apply health psychology principles to make a treatment plan for hypothetical patients.

After taking this course, students will be able to explain the role of the psychologist within the medical setting, articulate the “biopsychosocial” model of health, give examples of bidirectional relationships between psychological and physical functioning, and apply health psychology principles to common medical conditions in children and adults.