Past, Present, and Future of Psychosomatic Movements in an Ever-Changing World: Presidential Address

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Abstract

Objective

The American Psychosomatic Society was founded in 1942 and is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2017. In recognizing the society's anniversary, this article provides a historical perspective on its history, the field of psychosomatic medicine in general, and anticipated future directions.

Methods

Essay and narrative review of the literature on the historic development of psychosomatic concepts and their impact on medicine over time.

Results

Mind-body associations have been described in the medical literature for more than 3500 years. Early concepts of mind-body dualism and attempts to overcome them are found in classical Greek medicine. Psychosomatic thinking can be observed ever since, but only in the 20th century, a “psychosomatic movement” emerged in Europe and North America, aiming at humanizing medicine by introducing a holistic understanding of man into what was considered a widely reductionistic practice of medicine. This movement led to the inauguration of the American Psychosomatic Society during World War II and of national and international societies of psychosomatic medicine and its subspecializations thereafter.

Conclusions

Psychosomatic medicine has its roots in the beginnings of medicine. During the past 75 years, it has made substantial contributions to the science and practice of medicine. The field has also changed in response to developments in medicine, technology, and society and is facing new challenges and opportunities that may require further adaptation of its concepts and practice.

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