What is the biopsychosocial model of well-being and how can it be implemented in my own life?
The biopsychosocial model, while certainly a mouthful to say, is a very useful model to implement in your daily life. At first glance it seems very complicated, but I will break it down so that you can be confident in your ability to use this theory for your own personal benefit. But first, I would like to tell you my own personal story about how this model became important to me in my own life.
From elementary school until I finished my first four years of college, I was sure I wanted to practice medicine. So in that moment, I did everything that I thought was necessary to become a doctor. I took several AP courses in high school, and when I started college, I chose biology as my major with a pre-med option. This curriculum focused heavily on the biological aspects of health, including common conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, etc. Although it is not intuitive to know the biological bases of diseases, it is certainly fascinating to learn about them!
After four years of college focusing on the scientific foundations of the body, such as biology, chemistry, and physics, I became a medical scribe for a doctor in a nearby community. Basically, the term “medical scribe” is a fancy way of saying that I followed a doctor with a computer and wrote down the important things that were discussed during a doctor-patient interaction. The job was extremely stressful and demanding and ultimately led me to question my lifelong goal of becoming a doctor.
Although the work was stressful and only lasted six months, there were some critical observations during the time I wrote. The first is that most people had some form of physical discomfort and hoped the doctor would know what kind of pill or treatment the patient would need to alleviate the discomfort. If someone needs to be treated for conditions like diabetes or arthritis, then it makes perfect sense for a doctor to prescribe a biological remedy to treat the condition.
But one question I asked myself during every interaction that I documented was “is this the best way this patient can be treated?” Considering that the doctor is much more experienced than I am, and spent a significant amount of time in medical school and residency, I was fairly confident that the patient was receiving optimal care for his condition … Except for some potential cases.
What about conditions like anxiety or major depressive disorder? Although there are biological treatments like anxiolytics and antidepressants available to doctors, I also wondered about alternative treatments for these conditions. Is depression really an illness for which someone can realistically walk into a doctor’s office, get treatment or medication, and then go on their happy path? Is depression simply about the absence of the conditions that cause it? Or is their depression stemming from something they lack, even though they are otherwise perfectly healthy?
Here, my fellow dedicated readers, is where the biopsychosocial model comes into play. There are three manageable components in the model if the word itself is broken down. These are Bio, Psycho, and Social. So essentially, when the word biopsychosocial is used in the context of well-being, it suggests that there are biological, psychological, and sociological parts to well-being. The biological components of health are evident in the first part of the article, but these other two elements are also important to consider. Regarding psychological factors, does the person feel that they have strong interpersonal relationships? Do they have a sense of belonging? Do they find meaning in their daily activities? Do you feel some kind of accomplishment? If they lack any of these aspects, along with myriad other psychological factors, this could contribute to their perceived depressive state. This is why the PERMA theory could fit very well into the biopsychosocial model of well-being (see the post “The Power of Positive Psychology” if you wish, link below). It is also important to consider sociological factors. Does the person come from an economically disadvantaged background? Is there a group of peers that has a good or bad influence on them? Are there problems within the individual’s immediate family? Certainly, there are also other sociological or environmental considerations when dealing with a patient’s depressive state.
Wow, that was definitely a lot more than I expected to write! I hope you enjoyed learning a little about how various factors influence your well-being. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that is guaranteed to fix your depressed state completely (although it might be helpful in some way). It is important to consider your own psychological factors and also your sociological environment. This will be developed much more in future posts, and I hope to be more concise when I do. I hope you can recognize these factors for your own well-being! Feel free to comment below with any contributions you’d like to make, and thank you for your dedication in finishing reading this article!
Link to the publication “The power of positive psychology”: