Psychosomatic disorders are evidence of the impact the mind can have on the body. They are stages in which it is possible to highlight a series of real physical symptoms related to invisible diseases, affections that do not exist organically, but which are the result of mental conflicts, of unresolved problems that devour us inside.
Reading that there are pupils who may even lose their sight right before an exam due to anxiety may not be credible. Similarly, talking about the case of a 60-year-old woman who lost the mobility of her legs because she was convinced she had spinal cancer may seem like an exaggerated and difficult story to understand.
However, the evidence is there and these cases happen every day, all over the world and at all times. For this reason, neurologists and psychologists who specialize in psychosomatic disorders soon learn to make room for patients’ exposure to what is happening to them. If they say they feel pain, this pain is probably real even if it is not reflected in an MRI or blood test.
Giving credibility to the suffering of these patients is essential. As well as to people who say they have suicidal thoughts during a depression or to a schizophrenic person when they claim to have visions and certain hallucinations. This reality exists, exists within that patient’s mind and can be devastating. When our mind takes over, traumatized or subjected to a highly convulsive state of anxiety, anything can be possible.
Psychosomatic Disorders: Is It Really All in My Head?
By psychosomatic disorders we mean that picture of symptoms where it is not possible to find a physical or organic correlation, where all the ailments and limits suffered by the person depend only on his mental processes. Let’s think for a moment what this can mean … is it really all in my head?
The truth is that psychosomatic disorders continue to be a field of study for experts today, full of unknowns. However, this spectrum of physical ailments associated with mental stress is known to have a cerebral correlate : the hyperactivity of nerve impulses in the brain when communicating with different areas of the body.
- There may also be an excess of adrenaline in the blood, as well as some altered biological parameters, such as the acceleration of glucose or amino acid metabolism.
- It was also possible to demonstrate that there are people more susceptible to psychophysical disorders. People who live with great anxiety or who have had a traumatic childhood due to abuse, lack of affection, etc., are more likely to experience these disorders.
Beyond identifying the cause of psychosomatic disorders, there is an even more important fact. Think of a doctor who explains to his patient that his problem is not real, that the pain in his chest is not due to a heart attack, that his aphonia is not due to a problem with his vocal cords or a terrible migraine to a tumor. It is fair to tell a patient “what has he got”, but how can you help him heal this something that originates in his mind?
What our mind can generate
Psychosomatic disorders can affect any organ, system, tissue or structure. Their impact is immense, so we shouldn’t underestimate the power of our psyche. Similarly, it is necessary to distinguish somatoform disorders from psychosomatic ones. While the former do not present any physical symptoms, in the latter there is visible damage to the body (for example, ulcers).
- A typical example of psychosomatic disorders are skin diseases, such as eczema, urticaria, infections, acne.
- Hypertension, tachycardia, feeling of suffocation or pain in the heart.
- Digestive system disorders are very common, among which the most common are irritable bowel and ulcers.
- Intense headaches, such as migraines.
- Memory loss.
- Bronchial asthma.
- Dysmenorrhea, menstrual disorders.
- In extreme cases, some people may suffer from temporary blindness, lack of mobility in a limb, fainting, etc.
How are psychosomatic illnesses treated?
Psychosomatic disorders are treated with two different approaches. On the one hand, as is evident, it is necessary to intervene on the physical symptom that the patient presents (ulcer, infection, eczema …). In these cases, the most important thing is to face the authentic basic problem, to know the psychological universe of the patient and the unresolved mental tension that somatizes in the body with greater or lesser seriousness.
The techniques used in these cases are many and will always depend on the personal reality of each case. Sometimes it is appropriate to try different therapies to see which one works best for the patient, which generates the most positive and desired results.
- Relaxation techniques are always very effective.
- Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy is of great help for patients to learn new ways to cope with their problems. They will understand their inner realities, set realistic life goals, and recognize thought patterns to change in order to have a healthier lifestyle.
- Psychoanalysis is another therapy that often gives positive results in cases of mental and emotional conflicts and anxiety disorders.
- Group therapies, such as the psychodrama devised by Jacob Levy Moreno, is another suitable and very rewarding strategy for trying to obtain the desired results.
To conclude, it is necessary to point out the importance and the challenge that it represents for many doctors to try to offer a solution to all these people who nowadays suffer from psychosomatic diseases. Sometimes these are very harsh realities that deserve our attention and awareness.