The Physiological- Psychological Connection
If Your MD can not diagnose it, could it be Psychological?
First, find a name for it–what “it” is or what it is not; seeking treatment from a trusted MD (to rule out the physical). Then, find a trusted psychological professional and you have your team set up and working for progress.
“Imagine taking a hard fall off your bike and then not being able to move your arm — but your arm isn’t injured. Neither is any other part of your body. Is the paralysis all in your head? Actually, it might be.
You could have what’s called conversion disorder1. It’s a neurological condition that causes physical symptoms — like a paralyzed arm — even though doctors can’t find any injury or other physical condition to explain them.
In other words, your body converted your emotional and psychological stress from falling off your bike into the physical response of your paralyzed arm. It might seem strange, but your symptoms are real, and you can’t control them.”
Dr. Tim Kenny2, “Some physical diseases are thought to be particularly prone to be made worse by mental factors such as stress and anxiety. For example, these include 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.
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.
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, a ‘thumping heart’ (palpitations), feeling sick (nauseated).shaking (tremor), sweating, dry mouth, chest pain, headaches, a knot in the stomach, fast breathing.”
Laura’s story (excerpts) 3, “I am actually experiencing stress right now. I am living alone for the first time in my life. I am experiencing the emotions of feeling alone/loneliness, and somewhat abandoned. I know that no one abandoned me, but I think it is a natural feeling, so I am accepting it.
Physiologically I feel queasy and/or sick to my stomach a lot. I eat a lot less when I feel stressed, so I have lost seven pounds. I started smoking again. I also drink an occasional glass of wine to relax, which I never did before.”
I find it interesting that for many years my body would react to stress by becoming ill. The farthest back I can recall it starting was 5th grade. When I switched schools, in 5th grade I had pneumonia. When I went to 6th-grade camp I had bronchitis. When I went to band camp as a high school freshman I had bronchitis. For the first two years of college during mid-terms and finals I had a sinus infection. One year I had mono during finals. That was fun: study, sleep, study, sleep. I also have a herniated disc in my back. As soon as I got away from my stressful job as a litigation adjuster; my severe and chronic back pain; which had been treated with a heavy narcotic pain patch and epidural injections; slowly dissipated.
What is standing in the way of seeking professional help, embarrassment, stigma, privacy, denial?
Yoshihara4, “Some psychosomatic patients refuse to admit that they need psychological intervention. In such cases, first of all, somatic symptoms should be treated. Intensive physical care facilitates the establishment of mutual trust between the patient and doctor. In parallel with the physical care, detailed information about the medical history related to the occurrence and progression of the disease should be collected, from both the physical and psychological aspects. Through these interventions, some patients realize the importance of mind-body correlations and are motivated to accept the psychosomatic treatment.”
Found the name of your distress and it is not physically treatable? This is the time to connect with Counseling on Demand. It’s not just talking. It’s the relationship that heals.
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- What Is Conversion Disorder? Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on September 25, 2016, webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-conversion-disorder#1
- Dr. Tim Kenny, Psychosomatic Disorders, patient.info/health/psychosomatic-disorders
- Matthew Hunt, Stress, It Frequently Affects Us Physically, http://www.counselingondemand.com/counseling/stress-it-frequently-affects-us-physically/
- Kazufumi Yoshihara, Psychosomatic Treatment For Allergic Diseases, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4384507