8 Minutes

October 19, 2021 by THE BALANCE
Fact checked

Often mental illnesses also include physical symptoms such as aches and problems related to digestion. Real physical symptoms that come from or are influenced by the mind and emotions rather than a definite physiological source in the body are said to as psychosomatic.

Psychosomatic illnesses are sometimes misunderstood as fictitious or “all in the head.” Physical symptoms of psychosomatic diseases, on the other hand, are genuine and require treatment just like any other illness. Regrettably, appropriate treatment does not always arrive on time or promptly. Let’s get into an in-depth explanation of the term psychosomatic.

Psychosomatic means mind and body related the term merges the two greek words “psyche” or mind and “soma” or body. The term “psychosomatic” refers to a condition that affects both the mind and the body. Psychosomatic illnesses are divided into three categories.

  •  People with both a mental (psychiatric) and a medical condition falls into the first category, and their symptoms and management are complicated by each other. 
  • People who have a psychiatric condition as a direct result of a medical ailment or its treatment, such as depression caused by cancer and its therapy, fall into the second category.
  • Somatoform disorders are the third category of psychosomatic illness. Somatoform diseases are psychiatric illnesses that manifest as physical symptoms. In other words, people’s physical symptoms are caused by psychological reasons rather than a medical condition.

Psychosomatic disorder, also known as Psychophysiologic Disorder, is a condition in which psychological pressures harm physiological (somatic) functioning and cause discomfort. It is a syndrome in which the involuntary nervous system and internal secretion glands are activated inappropriately, causing malfunction or structural damage to physiological organs.

As a result, the psychosomatic symptom appears as a physiological side effect of an emotional state. In a fit of wrath, for example, the angry person’s blood pressure will undoubtedly rise, as will his pulse and breathing rate. The heightened physiological processes normally lessen once the rage has passed. However, if a person has a prolonged inhibited aggressiveness (chronic anger) that he is unable to express overtly, the emotional state remains unchanged, even if it is not exhibited in overt behavior, and the physiological indicators of anger remain.

Psychosomatic illnesses can affect practically any part of the body, but they are most commonly found in systems that are not under the control of the individual. Hypertension, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal disturbances, migraine and tension headaches, pelvic pain, impotence, frigidity, dermatitis, and ulcers are some of the psychosomatic disorders that can be caused by stress.

There is no exact known cause of psychosomatic disorders. However, the following causes and risk factors can be considered as causative factors of this disorder.

  • Increased pain sensitivity, for example, is due to genetic and biological factors.
  • Negativity is a personality trait that might affect how you recognize and experience sickness and body symptoms.
  • Reduced awareness of or difficulties processing emotions, causing physical symptoms to take priority over emotional ones.
  • Learned behavior, such as the attention or other benefits acquired from having an illness; or “pain behaviors,” such as excessive avoidance of action, which can enhance your level of impairment.

  • Suffering from anxiety or depression.
  • Having or healing from a medical condition.
  • Having a significant family history of sickness, for example, puts you at risk of developing a medical problem.
  • Experiencing traumatic events, trauma, or violence in one’s life.
  • Having gone through a traumatic event in the past, such as sexual assault as a child.

Psychosomatic or somatic disorders are further divided into several types or categories such as mentioned below:

  • Anxiety Disorder Due to Illness or illness anxiety disorder (formerly called Hypochondriasis). This personality type is preoccupied with the fear of contracting a serious illness. They may mistakenly feel that mild ailments are symptoms of more significant medical issues. They might believe, for example, that a common headache is an indication of a brain tumor.
  • Conversion disorder is also called Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder. People with neurological symptoms that can’t be linked to a medical cause are diagnosed with this illness. Patients may have symptoms such as:
  1. Weakness or immobility
  2. Movements that are unusual (such as tremor, unsteady gait, or seizures)
  3. Hearing loss is a common problem.
  4. Numbness or loss of sensation
  5. Convulsions (called nonepileptic seizures and pseudoseizures)
  • Other Specific Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders. This category includes situations in which somatic symptoms last less than six months or involve a condition known as pseudocyesis, which is a false belief that a woman is pregnant that is accompanied by other outward signs of pregnancy, such as an expanding abdomen, labor pains, nausea, fetal movement, breast changes, and menstrual period cessation.

Psychosomatic illnesses may include the following symptoms.

  • Whether it’s specific sensations like pain or shortness of breath or more general symptoms like exhaustion or weakness.
  • Unrelated to any known medical cause, or a medical condition such as cancer or heart disease, yet more serious than what is often expected
  • A single symptom, a group of symptoms, or a series of symptoms
  • Mild, moderate, or severe

The most common symptom is pain, but whatever your symptoms are, you have excessive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors associated with them, which cause substantial issues, make it difficult to work, and can be disabling.

The thoughts and behaviors related to pain can include

  • Worry about becoming sick all of the time
  • Normal bodily feelings are seen as an indication of serious physical sickness.
  • Even when there is no evidence, people worry that their symptoms are significant.
  • Believing that physical feelings are dangerous or scary
  • Feeling that your medical examination and treatment were insufficient
  • Checking your body for anomalies regularly
  • Frequent medical appointments that do neither alleviate nor exacerbate your worries
  • Being unresponsive to medical therapy or being very sensitive to the negative effects of medications
  • Having a more serious impairment than is typical of a medical condition

Treatment of psychosomatic illnesses can involve both psychological and auxiliary treatments. Below is a brief explanation of each.

Psychotherapies

  • Psychoanalysis is a type of treatment that is used to treat depression and anxiety. It’s a lengthy procedure that lasts several years and involves two to five sessions every week. The psychoanalyst will keep track of the patient’s childhood recollections and dreams that are relevant to his or her mental state.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that examines the patient’s thoughts and beliefs as they relate to his or her mental health. This type of treatment aids the patient in overcoming the feelings that cause him or her to change their behavior. It helps the patient overcome problems such as despair, anger, phobias, and chronic pain, to name a few. The length of each session is determined by the severity of the patient’s ailment.
  • Abreaction therapy is a type of treatment that is intended to help people cope with the emotions that come with traumatic occurrences. This sort of therapy takes a longer time to complete than other therapies, and it is not generally employed.

Auxiliary treatments for psychosomatic illness

  • Pharmacotherapy is a complementary treatment that is used in conjunction with psychotherapy and ECT. Antidepressants and anxiolytics are used to treat depression and anxiety, respectively. After several weeks, this therapy improves the patient’s mental abnormalities.
  • Psychosomatic physiotherapy: This therapy aims to improve the patient’s health by restoring emotional balance in the mind.
  • Yoga: Breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation are very beneficial in relieving stress in mentally ill people. When you hold your breath, your muscles are tightened, and stress, fear, and other negative emotions are rejected for some time. Psychosomatic patients’ thoughts and feelings are affected by the lengthening of the period.
  • Osteopathy is a type of stress-reduction therapy that uses hand pressure (massage). The goal of this manual medicine is to have a beneficial effect on the body’s neurological, circulatory, and lymphatic systems. The therapy aids in the reduction of anxiety and pain while also allowing the patient’s body to recuperate.
  • Lifestyle changes: Limiting caffeine intake, eating a well-balanced diet, taking vitamin supplements, and avoiding alcohol and smoking can all help to alleviate anxiety to some degree.

Psychosomatic illnesses are something of high concern. People who suffer from somatic symptoms frequently seek medical help for tests and treatments. They tend to grow more worried. It’s vital to understand that somatic symptom disorder is distinct from “faking it” or exaggerating symptoms. They’re real and uncomfortable symptoms; the source, however, is psychological rather than physical. Consult your doctor if you’re experiencing long-term, unexplained symptoms. Behavioral therapy and a lifestyle change can help. They can also help you avoid tests and treatments that aren’t necessary.

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