The Biopsychosocial Model



Why is it so hard to resist and/or change a bad habit? Maybe it is because of a weak character, or maybe it's the genetics that are responsible for the heavy drinking or heavy smoking, or maybe it is the society's fault that perpetuates a ''perfect model'' that almost everyone is struggling to keep up with.

Actually the answer is all of the above, which can be explained through the Biopsychosocial Model.

Two Austrian biologists, Paul Alfred Weiss and Ludwig von Bertalanffy, realized that in order to do science properly, they had to address the complexity of different environments, and they introduced the idea of open systems. This term shows that biology cannot be solely reduced to chemistry and physics. This is where the General Systems Theory was developed which integrates a broad range of special system theories by naming and identifying patterns and processes common to all of them. Physician Franz Alexander, who is considered to be one of the founders of psychosomatic medicine, found that many diseases such as disturbances of the gastro-intestinal track, thyrotoxicosis, and diabetes are triggered by emotional causes. This reveals the importance of biological along with psychological factors that cause an illness to occur. More specifically, if we go back to one of the examples above (heavy drinking), it is clear that is due to all three factors: biological, psychological and social.

According to the Biological Perspective, researches now have identified some genes that are thought to influence the risk for alcoholism in humans. A test of hereditary factor in alcohol abuse reveals that adopted children that their biological parents were alcoholics, indicate a genetic component in problem drinking. Furthermore, the functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, GABA, and serotonin, is affected by genetics and has been linked to alcohol´s effects. According to the Social Perspective, children of problem drinkers tend to abuse alcohol because they repeat the same pattern that they learn from their surroundings. According to the social learning model, people learn to drink through observation of others, called modeling. Modeling and social pressure were related to increase drinking during college, and students who were drinking heavier were putting themselves in situations to receive different pressures than students who were drinking less, which relates to the influence of modeling According to the psychological perspective, people tend to excessively drink because they need to cope with stress or anxiety and feel that alcohol gives them a sense of power; a pattern that operates as a negative reinforcement. As a result, they continue to consume in order to avoid or reduce uncomfortable and painful feelings. In a way, they self-medicate themselves so as to numb the pain inside.

Thus, in order to address and find the correct solution to one's/coachee's problem, it is very important to tackle the problem from all three perspectives.

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