Psychosomatic symptoms appear to originate in, or are
worsened by, limiting beliefs, negative emotions and relationship problems.
Many somatic diseases appear to have psychosomatic components.
What are Psychosomatic Symptoms?
Please consult a physician
about medical symptoms or medical conditions.
If you visit a physician, you may be told
it's all in your head.
Some body (somatic) symptoms have no known physiological basis. Some
symptoms seem more related to relationships and emotional trauma than to physical damage
or biological causes. These symptoms can range from mild headaches
to phantom pregnancies, and often include nausea, diarrhea, giddiness and
Although these symptoms seem to involve both the mind (psyche) and body
(soma), there appears to be little agreement as to what symptoms should be
called psychosomatic. Sometimes, emotions seem to influence not
only the onset of an illness, but the severity of the symptoms.
Beyond biology is psychobiology.
Like many medical schools,
we believe that symptoms such as asthma, eczema,
heart problems, hypertension, migraines and ulcers are strongly influenced by
emotions and beliefs - and therefore by the relationships in which
those emotions and beliefs were created and sustained. Anxiety, stress, guilt and
depression often result from relationship problems - and negative
emotions are known to trigger physical complaints.
What is the difference
between Somatic and Psychosomatic complaints?
Some people exaggerate or deliberately falsify symptoms to avoid
work, examinations or military duty. It can be difficult to know
which symptoms are real.
between Somatic and Psychosomatic Pain*
- Somatic pain is unrelated to emotions and relationships.
- Somatic pain has an anatomical distribution.
- Somatic pain reflects tissue damage.
- Somatic pain may come and go, and be worsened or relieved
by specific measures.
- People describe somatic pain with words like burning
- Psychosomatic pain may follow an emotional or relationship disturbance.
- Psychosomatic pain may not have an anatomical distribution.
- Psychosomatic pain may not be related to tissue damage.
- Psychosomatic pains tend to be constant.
- People have difficulty describing psychosomatic pains.
Do some Relationships require
While psychosomatic symptoms can affect people at any age, they seem more
likely to appear during times of stress, such as partnership breakdown, overwork
or forced military service. People often tell us about mild symptoms (e.g. headaches, nausea,
blurred vision) during our conversations about emotions and relationships.
During our last session,
I had a weird headache which moved.
You noticed that different headache
locations corresponded to
different people - my mother-headache was back left, for example.
A key issue is communication. Psychosomatic symptoms seem more
commonly reported by children and people who cannot communicate well,
especially people who do not communicate their emotions, or who
habitually hide or minimize their feelings.
Since I was a child, my glasses
give me a sense of safety.
If I take them off - people become blurred and less real.
Sometimes I fear seeing people too clearly.
How many people are taught how to communicate their feelings?
Children are often punished for expressing emotions (e.g.
anger) that their parents do not want to acknowledge. Many
people appear to swallow their anger ... and later explode
with rage or have symptoms that match the body locations of the suppressed
Psychosomatic symptoms may be ways of coping with
relationship stress. Psychosomatic conditions are often
linked by family dynamics. For example,
chronic anger and
chronic anxiety seem to be passed on
from one generation to the next. Children follow where their parents lead - and
many identify with their parents' problems.
Solutions for Psychosomatic Symptoms
If we resolve the relationship and emotional issues that underlie
psychosomatic conditions, those symptoms may seem to magically disappear.
We expect to find not one but multiple factors that lead to
psychosomatic symptoms. (Finding all the benefits of a symptom
set is complex. We observe and respond to non-verbal
signals and body language at least as much as we listen to words).
I don't seek one cause
for psychosomatic symptoms - I seek ten!
If I only find six "causes" - I keep looking!
Some health professionals recognize the importance of dealing with
relationship factors of disease symptoms and try to heal whole people,
rather than just body parts. And yet people who were diagnosed
with psychosomatic disorders have told us that their doctors often reacted
as if they were insane.
Listen to body language with
your eyes! Don't wait for a person to
explain everything ... assume that those little gestures and
expressions are communications ... in a language that you can learn.
Most people need a safe space to talk about their
feelings and relationships. We help provide such safe spaces to help people
gain insights into how their symptoms make sense in their lives - and into
what alternative cures they can find instead.
I had frequent migraine
headaches for many years - and only one since our sessions.
I found that I was following my mother - whose headaches
allowed her to avoid anything
she did not like ... my
headaches also gained me sympathy from my father.
Online Solutions and Alternative Cures
People with psychosomatic
symptoms can benefit from support, understanding and compassion of family
and friends (but not from sympathy, which often encourages people to stay
in bad states). We can listen carefully and provide supportive feedback.
We don't confuse compassion
with sympathy! Compassion helps motivate
people to act like adults, while sympathy helps motivate
adults to act like children.
It can be spooky watching symptoms vanish! This is commonplace with
headaches, nausea and phantom pains, but during our systemic solutions, some
physical symptoms look like cinematic special effects in slow-time!
Since my older brother died of cancer,
I feel like I'm carrying his pain.
I feel like he's inside me. Doctors tell me
I have no medical conditions.
If you have strange symptoms, examine your lifestyle. Could you
be allergic to a common food, food additive or house dust, etc?
Consider your relationships, and how you deal with stress and
conflict. Do your symptoms follow a trigger?
Please consult a physician
about medical symptoms or conditions.
Give yourself space for insights and time for integration.
After our online sessions,
people often say that they have many aha!
moments and insights.
Contact us to better manage your emotions and solve
Online Help: Counseling &
I thought you were just
another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.
Fernández Martínez and Fernández Concepción Rodríguez (Spanish)
Casey PR; Tyrer PJ. (1986). Personality, functioning and symptomatology. J
Psychiatry Res. 20:363-374.
Psychiatry and the seven ages of man. Journal of the Royal Society of
Medicine. 1988 Apr;81(4):189-93.
Plagiarism is theft. Copyright © Martyn Carruthers
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