Psychosomatic Disorders: How Your Body Suffers from Your Mental Processes?

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Sometimes diseases send symbolic messages – we just have to learn to understand the language of their symptoms. By the way, it is not so difficult…

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Have you been treating stomach ulcer unsuccessfully? Are you criticizing yourself excessively and eating your heart out? Are you tortured by pain in the neck? Would you like to see who is that albatross around your aching neck? Do you have back pain? Maybe you are saddled with an extremely heavy burden? Do you suffer from asthma attacks? Think about what or who prevents you from breathing deeply and pulls a plug on you.

“As you ought not to attempt to cure eyes without head, or head without body, so you should not treat body without soul”, Socrates once said.

The father of medicine, Hippocrates, also advocated that the body is a single structure. He stressed the importance of finding and eliminating the cause of the disease rather than just treating its symptoms. The causes of our physical ailments are often explained by our psychological problems. That is why people often say that all diseases originate from the nerves. However, we seldom guess the true cause and keep visiting doctors’ offices in vain. If any problem really exists in our minds, the disease may subside for some time and then come back again soon. There is only one way out of this situation – not just eliminate the symptoms, but seek the roots of the disease instead. This is the purpose of psychosomatics (from Greek ‘psyche’ – a soul, and ‘soma’ – a body), a science that examines the influence of psychological factors on physical diseases.

Psychosomatics is not just the relationship of bodily and mental aspects; it is a holistic approach to the patient, who is no longer viewed as the bearer of some body organ or the symptom of some disease. The patient becomes a full-fledged personality with a number of internal problems and, as a consequence, bodily ailments.

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In the 1930s, one of the founders of psychosomatic medicine, Franz Alexander, singled out a group of seven classic psychosomatic diseases – the so-called “holy seven”. It included: essential (primary) hypertension, peptic ulcer, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism, bronchial asthma, colitis and atopic dermatitis. Nowadays, the list of psychosomatic disorders has expanded significantly.

According to the World Health Organization, from 38 to 42% of all people attend somatic doctors and are patients of the psychosomatic profile. However, according to psychotherapists, this figure is much higher.

Stress, prolonged tension, traumas, repressed resentments, fears, conflicts… Even if we try to ignore and forget them and if we oust them from our consciousness, the body remembers everything. And it reminds us of that experience. Sigmund Freud wrote that if we drove a problem through the door, it would often return through the window as a symptom. Sometimes it comes back so insistently and speaks to us so eloquently that it seems impossible to fail to understand the message. Still, we often do…

What Causes Asthma?

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Asthma occurs when inhaling certain allergens or is caused by an infection and emotional factors.

If we talk about the psychological background of the emergence of this disease, it is considered to be the inability of a human being to breathe deeply. Asthma often overtakes us when our life situation does not give us a chance to relax, and we live in “a severe, oppressive atmosphere” without any “gulp of fresh air.”

A disease can be triggered by an unfavorable work environment, where a prospective employee cannot work freely. This may also be the invasion of distant relatives, who become so firmly settled in the apartment that you fail to relax. Breathing problems often arise in people, whose relatives literally “strangle” them with care, especially in the children whose parents keep an eye open for them.

The well-known doctor, psychotherapist and writer Valery Sinelnikov, author of the book “Love thy disease,” says that most asthmatics find it difficult to cry. As a rule, asthmatics do not cry in life. These people hold back their tears and sobbing. According to the doctor, asthma is a suppressed sob, an attempt to express what cannot be expressed in another way.

Doctor of Medicine, Professor, Head of the Wiesbaden Academy of Psychotherapy (Germany) N. Peseschkian is convinced that many asthma patients come from families where achievements are highly valued, and the demands are too high. “Pull yourself together!”; “Give it a try!”; “Collect yourself!”; “Do not let me down!” – these and suchlike appeals are often heard in childhood. However, the manifestation of children’s discontent with their situation, aggression and other negative emotions are not welcome in families. Not being able to get into an open confrontation with the parents, the child represses his/her feelings. The child remains silent, but his/her body speaks the language of asthma symptoms – it is “crying” and pleading for help.

Which Mental Issues Cause Peptic Ulcer?

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It is believed that peptic ulcers can be caused by smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, genetic predisposition, high concentration of hydrochloric acid in the stomach as well as an aggressive bacterium with the beautiful name of Helicobacter pylori. Meanwhile, not all people get a disease after being exposed to these adverse factors. Why is this happening? Most scientists agree that, among other things, prolonged stress and individual character traits play a role in ulcer development in many ulcer patients.

For example, psychologists tend to believe that stomach ulcers often occur in anxious, vulnerable, and insecure people, who at the same time set very strict requirements and limits for themselves and are hyper-responsible. They are always unhappy, prone to self-flagellation and self-criticism. The latter is described in the definition “ulcer is caused not by what you eat, but by what consumes you from the inside.” Ulcer often affects those who are “stuck” in a given situation, unable to accept the new circumstances of their life. They explain their position by saying they need time to get over it. At the same time their stomach gnaws itself.

“I am sick and tired of it!” we may say about the hateful work, but for one reason or another we do not retire. We cannot resist the constant sarcastic remarks about others. As a result, at some point, our body begins to reflect like a mirror what is happening to our soul.

Backache Caused by Emotional Reactions

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Backache occurs for different reasons. They are injuries, physical overload, working in a bad position and hypothermia… Meanwhile, it is believed that the back can ache as a result of a strong emotional reaction and due to chronic stress, in which we regularly find ourselves.

It is not surprising that people with “an unbearable burden” are tired “of carrying their heavy cross.” They try to handle the “very heavy burden”, but respond to the nerve overload with pain in the back. After all, it is this part of our body that carries weights. But there is a limit. That is why even the strongest of us can be “overridden” with emotions; the most “diehard” individuals risk “bending under the difficult burden”, “getting a hump”, “or breaking down…”

Who Gets Diabetes?

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In terms of psychosomatics, diabetes has nothing to do with sweet life. Quite the contrary… according to psychologists, this disease provokes conflicts in the family, long-term stress and resentment. But the psychological cause of diabetes is an unmet need for love and tenderness. Experiencing chronic “hunger for love”, wanting to “taste” at least some joys of life, a person tries to meet emotional needs with the help of food. Food is the main source of pleasure. First of all, this is sweet food. Hence the problem of overeating, obesity, high levels of blood sugar and the disappointing diagnosis of diabetes. As a result, sweets as the last source of pleasure are banned.

The body of a diabetic person sends the message that one can get something sweet from the outside only by making their life “sweet.” One should learn to enjoy and choose only the most pleasant things in life. A person begins to think that everything in this world is supposed to bring joy and pleasure.

Dizziness as a Psychosomatic Disorder

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Dizziness may be a commonplace manifestation of seasickness and motion sickness, but it can also be a symptom of various diseases, including quite serious ones. It’s up to doctors to find out the difference. But if endless trips to the medical office do not bring any results and the doctors’ diagnosis is “healthy”, it makes sense to look at his malaise from the point of view of psychosomatic medicine.

Perhaps your life circumstances in recent years make you busy as a bee? Or the things going on around you send your head spinning? Or maybe you have progressed in the career ranks so dramatically and successfully that success literally makes you feel dizzy? If you are calm, reasonable, accustomed to the moderate pace of life, such a whirlwind of events can make your life pretty tense. In this case, it is necessary to think about what is really important and focus primarily on the essential things. Health problems will then be reduced to nothing. By the way, it is interesting that Julius Caesar, a well-known master of doing several things at once, suffered from permanent vertigo.

Can Hair Loss Be a Psychosomatic Disorder?

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Hair loss has many causes. These are genetic predisposition, hormonal disorders and, of course, stress. We start to lose hair after periods of serious worrying or after a nervous shock. This could be the loss of a loved one, separation from the loved ones, financial ruin… If we blame ourselves for what has happened, if we desperately regret that the past will never come back, we begin to literally pull our hair out. In this case, rapid thinning of hair means that the body tells us to discard obsolete and superfluous things, to part with the past and let it go. Then it will be replaced by something new. In particular, new hair.

What Causes Trigeminal Neuralgia?

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Trigeminal neuralgia causes pain, which is considered one of the most painful experiences known to mankind. Trigeminal nerve is the fifth of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves, and it is responsible, among other things, for the sensitivity of the face. How do you explain this terrible psychosomatic disorder?

If we are not satisfied with the shape of our legs or the size of our waist, these shortcomings are easy to hide by choosing the appropriate clothes, but our face is always seen by people. Moreover, it reflects all our emotions. To be honest, we do not always want to show our “true face” to the world, and we often seek to hide it. The least desirable thing is to lose face, and it is particularly well-known in the East. They use this phrase to describe a person, who has committed some ugly deed and has lost reputation.

Sometimes, wanting to make a good impression and trying to look better than we really are, we put on masks, stick a smile to our face and pretend to be serious or interested in the work… To put it short, we put a brave face on a sorry business.

This discrepancy between our true face and the mask which we hide behind leads to the fact that our facial muscles are in constant tension. But at some point, our eternal restraint and smiling turns against us: the trigeminal nerve gets inflamed, and the “ceremonial” face suddenly disappears, being replaced by a distorted grimace of pain. Restraining our aggressive impulses and being courteous with those whom we would gladly punch, we give a slap in our own face.

Sore Throat as a Psychosomatic Disorder

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Plain sore throat sometimes has a psychological background. As a child, everyone must have had angina or an acute respiratory viral infection on the eve of an important test that he/she was fed up with. And then we surely took a sick leave certificate because we were grabbed by the throat at work.

But, above all, psychosomatic can be taken into consideration if there are problems with the throat – chronic and difficult to treat and explain. They often torture those who want to – but for some reason cannot – express their feelings. Then they need to swallow their pride and mute their own tune. There are also people, who are accustomed to silently bearing a grudge. These people often seem hard-hearted and emotionless to others. But behind the external coldness, there is often a stormy temperament, and the rage of passion in the soul. Emotions rage, but fail to go outside, just being “stuck in the throat.”

How to Understand if You Have a Psychosomatic Disorder?

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Of course, the disease is not always literally embodied in one phrase. Not every runny nose should be a sign of destiny. It’s not that simple. Of course, any disease should necessarily be seen by the appropriate doctor and carefully examined. If the disease responds poorly to treatment, deteriorating health and promoting stress or conflict, you should think whether your health problems may be the consequence of unreacted emotions, repressed resentments, feelings and fears. What if unshed tears make our body “cry”? Only a therapist can help understand this.

Sometimes doctors, dealing with the body problems, prescribe psychotherapy (even more rarely, patients themselves come to understand the need of visiting a therapist). Here we are faced with another problem – the patient begins to fear that he/she may be considered insane. It is because of this fear that many prefer not to see a doctor. This fear is absolutely unjustified: a therapist is a physician, who can work with completely mentally healthy people. Those who were able to step over their fear and enter a therapist’s office try to help themselves, learn to see, analyze and solve their problems. They are the “happy patients”, who get rid of “incurable chronic diseases.” The relationship between bodily and mental aspects of a personality is undeniable, and only the harmony between these two components of our health can make a man truly healthy.

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