Did you know that mental or emotional struggles can lead to physical issues? The more stressed or negative your thinking is, the more likely you will develop physical symptoms. This is referred to as psychosomatic. The word psychosomatic comes from two Greek words; psyche, meaning mind, and soma, meaning body. Therefore, a psychosomatic disorder is when emotions or psychological issues cause physical symptoms that typically can’t be explained medically. It can also be referred to as somatic symptom disorder, somatic symptoms, or somatic pain.
The worse a person manages emotions, the more severe the physical symptoms. Some studies state that when a person is anxious, depressed, or stressed, it can lead to increased nerve impulse activity, leading to physical problems. Some examples are when stress or burnout can cause back & neck pain, increased stomach acidity, high blood pressure, and more.
It is still unclear how psychosomatic symptoms occur physically. However, a few risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing the conditions. These include:
- Genetics or biological: a person with a family history of an anxiety disorder or chronic & terminal illness can increase the chances of developing psychosomatic disorders
- Age: symptoms typically are found more in individuals younger than 30
- Gender: some studies show that women, especially younger, are more prone than men
- Personal History: a person with unresolved trauma is more likely to develop symptoms, especially in stressful or triggering situations
- Personality disorder: a person with mental or psychological conditions are highly sensitive to the emotional pain that can translate to physical pain
- Chaotic lifestyle: a person with a highly chaotic and unpredictable life can experience psychosomatic symptoms
Symptoms can appear as if nowhere and don’t usually leave evidence for medical experts to pinpoint the scientific/medical origin of cause. If you’re experiencing physical symptoms that aren’t related to any medical issue, you might have a psychosomatic disorder. These can include:
- Pain in the neck, back, head, or chest
- Organ issues such as issues with the stomach or breathing
- Erectile dysfunction
- Eczema or skin rash
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
A healthcare professional will perform multiple tests to rule out any medical conditions. Upon finding no link, s/he will refer a therapist for psychological concerns or causes. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the symptom. If the condition inhibits a person’s quality of life, the counselor could suggest Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the most common type to treat psychosomatic disorders.
CBT is a therapeutic technique that helps identify and correct intrusive thoughts, unproven beliefs, and other behaviors that cause psychological burdens. It helps patients understand their thoughts and teaches them ways to problem-solve. CBT is used with meditation or mindful therapy to eliminate self-criticism, overthinking, negative thoughts, and severe mood swings. This can help patients change negative behaviors affecting their emotional and physical health.
It’s important to note that how we react to situations determines our quality of life. We can manage our emotions before they fester and turn into something serious that can seem like they’re out of our control. Practicing mindfulness (the ability to be fully aware of what’s happening in and around us) will help us keep our negative thoughts at bay and prevent us from developing physical symptoms.