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Abu Zayd Al-Balkhi of Afghanistan, the forgotten pioneer of psychosomatic and cognitive therapy and the founder of spiritual psychotherapy


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Abstract Abu Zayd al-Balkhi was born in c. 850 in Balkh, Afghanistan. He was a disciple of the famous Muslim philosopher Al-Kindi. Moreover, Balkhi is the founder of the “Balkhi School” of terrestrial mapping in Baghdad. He was described as an encyclopaedic genius whose profound knowledge covered many diverse fields including medicine, geography, history, mathematics and theology. Al-Balkhi over 1100 years ago concluded “there is no health without mental health” and before Emil Kraepelin distinguished between reactive and endogenous depression. He also was the first to give a description of agitated depression. Al-Balkhi was a pioneer in cognitive psychotherapy who, more than a millennium ago introduced psychological techniques as reciprocal inhibition, desensitization and mindfulness, which were only introduced into modern psychiatry in the 20th century. Al-Balkhi was the pioneer of spiritual psychotherapy or “teb e ruhani”. He gave detailed description of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, phobia and OCD. He is one of the forerunners in psychosomatics and highlighting the association between chronic stress and development of psychosomatic conditions. He was one of the first to emphasize the importance of prevention of mental disorders and fought for de-stigmatization of mentally ill individuals. Despite huge contributions, Balkhi is almost forgotten and not mentioned in any textbooks of psychiatry. For his contribution in the field of psychiatry and psychotherapy, Balkhi should be given huge gratitude and one could without hesitation call him one of the "fathers" of psychiatry.


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© Copyright 2019 Morressier GmbH.
All rights reserved.