Psychosomatic symptoms are a greatly misunderstood concept in the field of mindbody medicine. Psychosomatic means that the cause of the symptoms originates in the mind, rather than the physical body. The pain is real, but the source is simply not anatomical. It is a common misconception that these symptoms are imaginary or exaggerated versions of a normal structural pain syndrome. This idea is completely false and nothing can be further from the truth of psychosomatic conditions.
In order to appreciate the universality of the conditions featured in this article, it is absolutely vital to understand that psychosomatic interactions are inherent parts of the human organism. Every single person on this planet demonstrates the effects of the mind upon their body.
Fear, anxiety and sexual response are some of the best known mindbody processes. There are countless more which we do not often consider, but we should. In fact, every single state of disease or injury has powerful psychoemotional components to it, in both causative and curative applications.
Psychosomatic or psychogenic symptoms can attack any system in the body with pain or physical alteration. The symptoms are as diverse as the variety of physically suffered diseases and disorders found in nature. Symptoms can range from mild to debilitating and can last only a few moments or an entire lifetime.
Psychosomatic processes can involve the source of pain itself, the contribution towards pain, the continuation of pain or the exacerbation of pain. Psychosomatic conditions are universal in the general population, with the only variables being the anatomical location, duration and severity of the symptoms.
Some of the most common psychosomatic symptoms are headaches and gastrointestinal distress. Pain syndromes, such as psychological back pain and fibromyalgia have grown to epidemic proportions in the past 50 years. Psychosomatic conditions are on the rise all over the world and this trend shows no sign of slowing down in the conceivable future.
As an extremely evolved (possibly over-evolved, in my humble opinion) species, human beings enjoy both the benefits and drawbacks of an advanced and complicated multi-leveled mind. It is this extreme depth of psychological process which creates physical symptoms in order to protect the conscious identity of the individual from threatening subconscious issues and emotions.
For more information on the most widespread mindbody expressions, please read our psychologically induced pain syndromes resource section.
Coming to terms with the idea that your pain might indeed be caused by a psychological process is very difficult for most patients. The majority can not and will not accept that their suffering may be induced by their own minds, but happily agree that it is caused by their own body. The mindbody concept does not make sense to them, due to a lack of knowledge and understanding concerning the intrinsic nature of the subconscious processes occurring beneath the level of conscious thought and recognition.
There has always been a psychological stigma associated with these mindbody pain syndromes. Most patients, and many health professionals, still consider psychological symptoms a sign of personality disorder, emotional immaturity and weakness, or even mental illness. It is no surprise that most people will fight the idea of a psychological causation, tooth and nail, rather then accepting the idea readily.
There is no shame in acknowledging the emotional self. In fact, this step is the key to conquering psychosomatic pain. By understanding the processes occurring in your own mind, you can gain power over them. By ignoring these issues, they maintain control and use your physical body as a puppet to dominate your conscious mind.
Pain keeps the consciousness focused on the anatomy, which is the exact effect intended by the initiation of psychogenic symptoms to begin with. To this end, the subconscious can maintain order in the combined mind by protecting the consciousness from repressed sensitive emotions. The pain acts as a camouflage, distraction or smokescreen to hide these emotionally repressed thoughts and feelings. It is a brilliant strategy and has proven extremely effective, judging by the explosive growth of psychogenic conditions in recent medical history.