Today’s Star Columnist: Dr mary wren - Need to treat emotions too

UGC Columnist Dr Mary Wren
UGC Columnist Dr Mary Wren

I have been thinking this week about medical research.

This was partly inspired by some work my brother is thinking about – the idea that you can analyse data from thousands of people who have various conditions and see what the connections are. This can then enable you to work out what might help them.

Most medical research revolves around physical or material things, procedures or drug treatments and things we can measure.

However, I read some very interesting research that investigated anger in men who had heart attacks. It found that there was a strong link between rage/anger that was unresolved and the risk of heart attack. Not surprising. If our heart is emotionally disturbed it makes sense that it can become physically disturbed. But I haven’t heard doctors asking men at risk about anger. We focus on the blood pressure, cholesterol and things we can measure.

It is well recognised in medicine that stress and anxiety make us more prone to things happening physically in our bodies. We can get flare-ups of eczema or psoriasis, stress ulcers or tension headaches. Migraines come at the end of a stressful week, our bowels become erratic with “nervous diarrhoea” and when shocked we say “my heart missed a beat”.

So why isn’t there more research into the connection between illness and emotions, or illness and behaviour patterns, attitudes, thoughts and unresolved conflict? Maybe it’s because these things are hard to measure. Maybe it’s because it is harder to talk through an emotional issue than a physical one. Maybe it’s because medication earns lots of money for someone who discovers and markets it. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to consider these things as a society – it’s too painful, too difficult and means we have to be responsible for our choices, behaviour and actions.

So maybe it would be good for us to talk about stress , or anger or frustration. Maybe we should look to change what we can and our health will benefit. And maybe there should be different research – a more 3D approach that includes body, soul and spirit.

I wonder if anyone would be brave enough and convinced enough to take it on?