In psychology, there is the term “psychosomatics”, which is used to denote the degree of influence of psychological factors on the occurrence and development of various somatic diseases. The treatment of psychosomatic diseases is based on the search and elimination of psychological problems in the patient since physical ailments in this case are only the body’s response to stress factors.
Features of Psychosomatic Illnesses
As noted above, psychosomatic disorders are a set of symptoms that occur in response to a stressful situation. These can be single manifestations, for example, weakness, dizziness, or pain in the chest. But often psychosomatics manifests itself in the form of individual diseases. These include ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, bronchial asthma, and other pathological conditions. Under the influence of some life circumstances, the human psyche and nervous system fail, the body is not able to adapt to the environment, and then various diseases occur.
But how exactly do psychosomatic illnesses arise? The human body in a stressful situation begins to accelerate the production of hormones responsible for emergency response at the time of danger. Dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline accelerate all physiological processes (the motility of the stomach and kidneys increases, the heartbeat accelerates and breathing becomes more frequent). Since the organs and muscles at this moment require more oxygen, the blood flow, and hence the pressure, in the vessels increases significantly.
When a person is safe, he should have a surge of emotions and normalize the work of the cardiovascular system. But if such a discharge does not occur, then vasospasm persists, and arterial hypertension develops. In modern conditions, a person often has to restrain his emotions, especially negative ones (aggression), which inevitably affect changes in internal organs.
What Causes Psychosomatic Illnesses
The most common cause of psychosomatic illnesses is internal conflicts. It is quite difficult for a person to identify and realize them on their own. For example, a child from childhood is accustomed to justifying the expectations of his parents or teachers, but his own desires and needs remain unsatisfied. All this leads to the fact that the internal balance is lost, tension grows, and negative emotions that have not received a proper outburst accumulate. In this state, even minor stress can lead to physical disorders and provoke, for example, a hypertensive crisis or an attack of bronchial asthma.
But not every stress flows into psychosomatics. The decisive factor here is not external circumstances, but the body’s reaction to them. Researchers have found that stressful situations are of two types: eustress (conditionally positive) and distress (conditionally negative). In the first case, the body reacts actively, tuning in to fight, and in the second, it reacts passively. The second reaction does not make it possible to adapt to the changed conditions of life, but only consumes internal resources, causing illnesses and ailments.
Every year the number of cases of psychosomatic diseases increases. According to statistics, in every second patient, the disease is caused precisely by psychological problems. Even viruses do not cause such devastating harm to the body as repressed emotions and experiences.
Symptoms of Psychosomatic Diseases
It is quite difficult to identify a psychosomatic disease the first time, only some specialists can do it. Psychosomatics often has physical manifestations, which can also be due to somatic pathologies. For example, gastritis can be caused by both a stressful situation and the bacterium Helicobacter. The mental state of the patient can be directly related to the work of such systems:
- Gastrointestinal tract;
- The cardiovascular system;
- Nervous system;
- The immune system.
Suspicions about the mental nature of diseases usually arise after unsuccessful drug therapy, characteristic of the treatment of a particular disease. Sometimes this requires several years of walking the patient through the offices of various specialists, but, in the end, it turns out that only a psychotherapist is able to help him get rid of the ailments that have tormented him for years.
This situation is partly due to the fact that patients are silent about existing mental problems. Someone because of shyness, but most of them simply do not see the relationship between their own experiences and physical condition. And doctors do not consider it necessary to be interested in other people’s problems.
If the patient is tormented by ailments that cannot be eliminated with the help of traditional therapy, then it is necessary to begin treatment with a psychotherapeutic bias. And if the patient is in a difficult life situation, then a visit to a psychotherapist should not be postponed at all.
What Ailments Are Classified As Psychosomatic Diseases
To date, it has already been proven that a number of diseases are caused by psychological problems. The most striking example of such a disease is bronchial asthma. Doctors around the world are looking for new ways to heal this pathology, but in fact, in most cases, healing only needs to resolve the patient’s internal conflict. This approach is also relevant for other diseases:
- Hyperventilation syndrome;
- Essential hypertension;
- Cardiophobia neurosis;
- Ischemic heart problems;
- Myocardial infarction;
- Vegetative dystonia.
The pathology listed last, in almost all cases, is cured by psychotherapeutic intervention without the use of drugs.
Recently, research on psychosomatic disorders has gained particular relevance. A large number of people, regardless of gender and age, suffer from diseases of the skin, stomach, and intestinal tract, endocrine disorders, and other diseases. Stress can lead to the development of infertility in young girls, as well as diabetes, rheumatism, and various sexual disorders.
At-Risk Groups of Psychosomatic Illnesses
Most patients with psychosomatics are people who constantly hide their true emotions from others. Behind the external calmness of melancholics, real emotional storms are hidden. This may be the beginning of the development of any psychosomatic disease.
Usually, the tendency to develop such pathologies can be noticed even in childhood or adolescence. At this age, the psyche is extremely unstable, the child is not able to overcome stress on their own, which means they will leave a mark on their physical condition. Some people can live for a long time and not think about their problems, the diagnosis, in this case, will be more complex and lengthy.
An example is a person who is addicted to alcohol. To recover from alcoholism, he needs to believe in himself as a person. This problem often originates in childhood, if parents demanded too much from their child and constantly raised the bar.
A causal relationship between other diseases and psychological problems has also been proven:
- The propensity for colds increases at a time when a person has a low mood and no interest in life.
- Anemia occurs in patients who fear the unknown.
- ENT diseases develop in people with reduced sociability, who are afraid to express their opinion.
- Gastritis manifests itself against the background of a sense of doom.
- Female infertility appears in those ladies who are afraid to make decisions on their own.
Self-doubt and depression inevitably affect the development of psychosomatic pathologies.
Features of Psychosomatic Illnesses Treatment
In order for the treatment of psychosomatics to be successful, it is necessary to understand that there are no general methods in this area. In each case, an individual approach is needed.
Treatment begins with the identification of the nature of the disease. The doctor must understand which symptoms are due to physical pathologies, and which are psychological problems. At this stage, an experienced psychotherapist can join the examination of the patient. The work is carried out in several directions at once, and it is very important to assess the psychological situation in the patient’s family. Often the cause of psychosomatic disorders is intra-family conflicts or a negative microclimate in the family. It is possible that psychosomatics will be detected in other relatives of the patient who have been in the same environment for a long time.
Psychosomatics requires complex treatment:
- Drug therapy can alleviate the symptoms of the disease and improve the psychological state of the patient. The patient may be offered sedatives or drugs with a hypnotic effect;
- Psychotherapeutic treatment is aimed at resolving internal conflicts. The most effective methods of influence are behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and gestalt therapy. In the course of treatment, the patient not only gets rid of existing problems but also learns to withstand difficult life situations in the future. In especially severe cases, a psychotherapist can use various methods of hypnotic influence. But the choice of a specific psychotherapeutic method largely depends on the patient’s condition and the nature of his problems;
- Helper methods. Since the main cause of psychosomatics in the presence of emotional experiences and hidden negative emotions, specialists can recommend to the patient one of the methods of alternative therapy. It can be art therapy, music or drawing treatment, various relaxing techniques, massage, relaxation, yoga, and meditation. Positively the emotional health of a person is affected by sports, as well as communication with animals, for example, horses or dolphins.
If the treatment was started in a timely manner, then some psychosomatic diseases can be cured in just a few sessions of psychotherapy. But in order for the disease not to return again, it is necessary to learn how to resist stress and other negative life circumstances.
How to recover from Psychosomatic Illnesses
If the disease has a psychosomatic nature, then both the soul and the body suffer in a person. The psyche creates a kind of vicious circle: the presence of a disease leads to a feeling of helplessness, and helplessness and a sense of insecurity, in turn, lead to the progression and exacerbation of the disease. To recover, you will need to take medicines prescribed by specialists, but, first of all, you need to learn not just to resist life’s difficulties, but to use an active strategy to overcome them.
It is rather difficult to cope with such a problem without the help of a psychotherapist because psychological work must simultaneously solve two problems:
- Understand your own body. With psychosomatic manifestations, he is trying to attract your attention. The psyche can provoke some symptoms because you have not rested for a long time. Abdominal pain may occur before an unpleasant meeting, etc.
- Building a new strategy aimed at accepting the changes that will inevitably appear after healing.
If you abandon psychotherapeutic treatment in favor of drug therapy, then you will not be able to solve the problem. Most likely, a thorough examination will not reveal abnormalities in the functioning of the body, but poor health will remain.
What to do to be less nervous
To prevent the development of psychosomatics, you need to learn how to relax. There are techniques that can help with this:
- Breathing exercises;
- Self-hypnosis. A positive internal monologue will help you to believe in yourself;
- Analysis of the current situation attempts to find a rational explanation for it and the search for arguments confirming one’s own correctness;
- Self-affirmation techniques will help you get out of a stressful situation with the least losses;
- Autogenic training and much more.
Try not to deny yourself small joys, take time to rest, walk in the fresh air and do what you love. Going to the theater will help someone overcome stress, someone likes to take care of indoor plants or spend time with pets. You can embroider, draw, read books, and play chess. Yoga, dancing, or various sports will help to normalize the mental state. It is important to find an activity that brings you joy.
But overcoming stress is not always the solution to the existing problem. To maintain mental and physical health, you need to identify and realize the cause of your experiences, and then develop a new strategy of behavior. And here you can not do without the help of specialists.