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Avoidance and Illness 2017-09-14T11:49:59+00:00

Avoidance and Illness

Below are various studies that highlight the relationship between emotion avoidance and mental and physical illness:

In a study where 56 women were admitted to hospital for breast biopsy, without knowledge of the pathology reports, Wirsching and colleagues were able to predict the incidence of cancer in 94% of women solely based on psychological factors, which included emotional suppression and avoidance of conflicts.1

In a British study by Greer and Morris, 160 women were admitted to hospital to have breast lumps biopsied. Similarly, researchers found a significant relationship between extreme suppression of anger and cancerous tumors.2

British Psychologist David Kissen conducted a study on the risk of lung cancer in men. His results showed that risk of lung cancer was five times higher in men who were unable to effectively express emotion.3

Additionally, from a 10-year study conducted in Cvrenka with 1,400 participants, researchers discovered that the greatest risk factor for death, especially mortality due to cancer, was repression of anger. Furthermore, Grossarth-Maticek and colleagues found that smokers had no incidence of lung cancer unless they reported repressing their anger as well.4

In a study conducted in Melbourne, Australia, Kune and colleagues looked at whether any personality traits were risk factors for colon or rectal cancer by comparing over 600 patients diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer with matched individuals who were cancer free. They found that the patients with cancer were significantly more likely to repress anger and other negative emotions, display an external impression of a “nice” person, suppress a reaction that might offend others, and avoid conflict. The risk for colorectal cancer based on these traits was found after controlling for diet, beer intake, and family history.5

1Wirschin, M. (1982). Psychological identification of breast cancer patients before biopsy. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 26, 1-10.

2Greer, S. & Morris, T. (1975) Psychological attribute of women who develop breast cancer: A controlled study. Journal of Psychosomatic Research,19, 147-53.

3Cox, T. & MacKay, C. (1982). Psychosocial Factors and Psychophysiological Mechanisms in the Aetiology and Development of Cancers. Social Science and Medicine, 16, 385.

4Grossarth-Maticek, R et al. (1985). Psychosocial factors as strong predictors of morality from cancer, ischemic heart disease and stroke: The Yugoslav prospective study. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 29(2), 167.76.

5Kune, G.A et al. (1991). Personality as a risk factor in large bowel cancer: Data from the Melbourne colorectal cancer study. Psychological Medicine, 21, 29-41.