Have you ever convinced yourself that you were ill or there was something specific wrong with you but on further examination by a medical professional you were fine? Don’t worry, It is so common and millions of people do it every day. Some call it being a hypochondriac but in reality its beyond your control and all forms part of Psychosomatic Illness. We are exposed to many different types of information each and every day which all form a part of our individual thought processes. Sometimes if someone else can convince you that something is correct (usually when they believe it themselves), they will be able to influence you extremely easily. For example, when you were a young child, how many times did your parents tell you something that you honestly believed to be real but years later discovered to be incorrect!?
Now for the boring part… Psychosomatic means mind (psyche) and body (soma). A psychosomatic disease is an illness which involves both mind and body. Some physical diseases are thought to be particularly prone to be made worse by mental factors such as stress and anxiety. Your current mental state can affect how bad a physical disease is at any given time.
Which illnesses are psychosomatic?
To an extent, most are psychosomatic - involving both mind and body.
- There is a mental aspect to every physical disease or illness. How we react to and cope with disease varies greatly from person to person depending on their personal coping mechanisms. For example, the rash of psoriasis may not bother some people very much. However, the rash covering the same parts of the body in someone else may make them feel depressed and more ill.
- There can be physical effects from mental illness. For example, with some mental illnesses you may not eat, or take care of yourself, very well which can cause physical problems as a direct result.
However, the term psychosomatic disorder is mainly used to mean ... "a physical disease or illness that is thought to be caused, or made worse, by mental factors".
The mind is the single most powerful thing we possess. The body will struggle to control the mind but the mind can control every aspect of our bodies with ease. How many times have you felt exhausted after work until the girl or boy you are dying to see asks to see you that night. Its funny how your lethargy or tiredness can instantly transform into unlimited amounts of energy and an abundance of entheusiasm. This is because the mind has convinced the body that you have this ‘energy’ required to see this person but if that person had not contacted you then im sure you would have stayed in all night and felt sorry for yourself.
Some physical diseases are thought to be particularly prone to be made worse by mental factors such as stress and anxiety. For example, psoriasis, eczema, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It is thought that the actual physical part of the illness (the extent of a rash, the level of the blood pressure, etc) can be affected by mental factors. This is difficult to prove. However, many people with these and other physical diseases say that their current mental state can affect how bad their physical disease is at any given time.
Some people also use the term psychosomatic disorder (which is when mental factors cause physical symptoms, but where there is no physical disease). For example, a chest pain may be caused by stress, and no physical disease can be found. This again is very common.
How can the mind affect physical diseases?
It is well known that the mind can cause physical symptoms. For example, when we are afraid or anxious we may develop: a fast heart rate, palpitations, feeling sick, shaking (tremor), sweating, dry mouth, chest pain, headaches, a knot in the stomach, and fast breathing. These physical symptoms are due to increased activity of nervous impulses sent from the brain to various parts of the body, and to the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream when we are anxious.
The exact way that the mind can cause certain other symptoms is not clear. Also, how the mind can affect actual physical diseases (rashes, blood pressure, etc) is not clear. It may have something to do with nervous impulses going to the body, which we do not fully understand. There is also some evidence that suggests the brain may be able to affect certain cells of the immune system, which is involved in various physical diseases.
What are the treatments for psychosomatic disorders?
Each disease has its own treatment options. For physical diseases, physical treatments such as medication or operations are usually the most important. However, healthcare workers will usually try to treat a person as a whole and take into account mental and social factors which may be contributing to a disease. Therefore, treatments to ease stress, anxiety, depression, etc, may help if they are thought to be contributing to your physical disease.
Finally this brings me onto the most common Psychosomatic illness of them all… STRESS! It's been estimated that over 90% of doctors visits are due to health problems influenced at least in part by stress. Have you ever heard of cortisol!? Cortisol is every bodybuilders worst nightmare. It can cause an increase in bodyfat, severe muscle atrophy and in some cases even cortisol related epilepsy. Stress can cause the body to increase cortisol levels so remember to keep a smile on your face at all times (if only it was that simple) because a happy athlete is a productive athlete.
I hope this article has helped you all to understand the importance of the mind and the part it can play within every physical aspect of your life. Please remember, my articles are only for reference purposes. If you feel you may be suffering from a Psychosomatic Illness or any form of stress, please be sure to seek advice from a medical professional.
Stephen Greensted – Sponsored Athlete