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The connotative meanings of the term “Psychosomatic”

Journal of Professional Nursing
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s8755-7223(88)80097-8
  • Communication
  • Design


The purpose of this study was to investigate the connotative meanings nurses attach to the term “psychosomatic.” The word psychosomatic was originally coined to represent the continuous and joint interaction of the mind and body. Unfortunately, the term, which was intended to convey an open-minded consideration of the whole person, has gradually acquired additional meanings that communicate disdain. A questionnaire designed to elicit information regarding the connotative meanings that nurses ascribe to the term psychosomatic was administered to 60 registered nurses. An open-ended format including four major questions was used. The participants were asked to define the term psychosomatic in their own words, to describe ideas and feelings that came to their minds when they heard the term psychosomatic, and to give an example of how psychosomatic would be used in their area of practice. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of the data were conducted. Findings showed that nurses expressed connotative meanings that contradicted the original meaning of the term and implied contempt for patients. Because it is accepted that attitudes and beliefs influenced actions, the way nurses use the term psychosomatic undoubtedly has important implications for the quality of care provided.

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