Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is the study of the branch of medicine that deals with the relationship between the emotional states (like stress and depression), the nervous system and the immune function.

There is evidence that shows that the mind-body connection influences health and disease. Medicine has studied this relationship on a phenomenon called the placebo effect.

The placebo effect, the taking of a dummy pill without any medication in it of itself creates an expectation of healing that is so powerful that symptoms are actually alleviated. In the same manner, for some surgical interventions, sham surgery has been proven to be as effective as or at times more effective than real surgery. The effect of the placebo is not just that it mimics the medication or the surgical intervention, is the belief that the treatment is real, so the mind induces changes in the brain that are communicated to the body which in turn induces its own healing molecules: hormonal or immunological.

For the past decade, science has provided a evidence of relationship and integration of the interplay between biological, behavioral, and social factors in health and disease. There is solid evidence between the mind-body interactions between the central nervous system, the endocrine system and the immune system. This inter-relationship between behavior and immunity influences our mind and body’s health. Stress has been associated with increased susceptibility to infectious disease as well as inflammatory disease. Severe psychological stressors, like conjugal bereavement has shown a mark decline in cellular immune response, key in protecting us against cancer and a wide range of infections. When smoking and/or alcohol dependence are added to the depressive state, the immune decline is accentuated.

When an individual is presented with a painful emotional situation, natural opioid like endorphins are produce by the body to cope with the emotional state.  Under a CT scan, the same regions of the brain that light up when we experience physical pain, also light up when we experience emotional pain. When the focus of the painful experience is prolonged, like in the case of depression, natural endorphins might not be enough to deal with the emotional pain. As with physical pain, medications like hydrocodone and morphine are used to alleviate the pain, some people also use it to deal with the emotional state, and in some cases an addiction is born. Only medication prescribed by your physician should be used in these cases.  

Prolonged stress, depression, anxiety, all of which are clearly states of the mind, influence the production of the endocrine system by which our organs communicate and the cytokine system, by which our immune cells communicate. This increases the risk of developing autoimmune diseases, susceptibility to infection, inflammation, allergies, and potentially certain cancers.

Research has shown that the opposite is also true, that meditation, happiness, empathy and love are states that favor both our endocrine and immune systems.

Hypnotherapy has been shown to be effective in create unconscious change in the patient in the form of new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviors or feeling.