It frequently happens that somatic disorders (”soma” means ”body” in Greek) have their psychological background.
In psychosomatic disorders, it is common that a patient has gone through a series of medical examinations, has not been diagnosed with any particular disease, and the doctors suggested the symptoms may have some psychological background. In such cases psychotherapy can prove helpful. What may be interesting, working with the patient’s emotions can alleviate the physical pain, as the body gets unburdened from what it was supposed to carry for the psyche. Moreover, many common physical illnesses may have a psychological component.
This means, for example, that stomach ulcers or colitis may be evoked by psychogenic factors, even if they may be treated with conventional medicine. This indicates that a significant part of illnesses located in the body is connected with psychological well being. The illnesses that are most closely connected with human psyche are the following: asthma, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, digestive system diseases, especially of the stomach and intestines, allergies, and dermatological problems.
When does the body get ill?
One can say: “I have a stomachache, it’s due to some stress”. This explanation, if we understand it in more detail, is well – grounded. The human being is an integral whole, body and psyche forming a mutually interacting entity.
Many psychosomatic illnesses are caused by unconscious, unknown, and unexpressed emotions, needs and attitudes. If they do not find any outlet, are not expressed or understood in any way, the body takes on this difficult task of expressing them.
Why the body?
Our body is the first medium of life and emotions. When a human being is born, a baby expresses all his or her needs and emotions only through the body: crying, shouting, biting, eating, drinking, excreting. The body is the only means of expression of his or her emotions, because the baby cannot yet either speak or think precisely or deduce. For example, an infant does not differentiate between hunger and anger.
How does this influence adult life?
When a baby learns to talk, many processes that had previously been expressed through the body, may now start being expressed through words. What was not possible to name, think about, or say, becomes now possible and the body can partially be relieved from expressing many things that now can be expressed through words. It is no longer necessary to have a stomachache – now it is possible to say that one is afraid of something or does not want something.
However, if it was not allowed to express certain emotions, some needs or feelings were not accepted, or the parents themselves could not teach the baby to recognize the way s/he was feeling and why, for example because they did not have such capabilities themselves – the body may take on the task of expressing what could not be expressed through understanding and words.
For example, some unwanted or not accepted emotions, like anger, shame, or sadness were not noticed or understood and thus found their way of expression through the body. It may happen that, for example, instead of feeling anger, or sadness the person starts eating loads of food, drinking, using drugs, or gets addicted to various substances or behaviors. These can lead to obesity, addictions, and have serious consequences for one’s health and well being.
Working in therapy with your unconscious, we can gradually reach the mechanisms ruling a human being, and bring back control over oneself, over one’s life, and regain the ability to choose, without being ruled by one’s compulsions. It is possible to gain freedom, instead of functioning on an automatic or compulsory level.
Psychologist, psychoterapist, counselor - Warsaw - Włochy District
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