Psychosomatic symptom is a term used to describe a physical symptom in the body that arises from a purely psychological or emotional cause. Some common psychosomatic symptoms include headaches, sleep problems, extreme fatigue, stomach problems as well as a variety of unexplained pains in the body. Weight gain, weight loss and an inability to lose weight can also be psychologically related for a variety of reasons as well. Of course, if you should experience any of these symptoms or issues, it’s always necessary to check with a medical doctor first in order to rule out any medically related causes. But what if you’ve seen a doctor, or a few doctors and possibly even gone through different medical exams but are left with results that indicate you are healthy physically and nothing is actually wrong? Then what?
This is when it’s time to consider the possibility of having a psychosomatic symptom which simply means you may have emotional stressors and/or suppressed emotions that are not being expressed and so to manage this, your body is directing the emotions into different areas of the body. Unexpressed emotions like anger, guilt, sadness, loss, judgment, confusion, anxiety, trauma, and any other negative emotion you can think of get held and trapped in the body when they are not given a way to be released whether it be through talking, crying, physical exercise, writing, etc. When we stuff our emotions down day after day for weeks, months or sometimes years, these emotions become toxic to the body and the body then sends a signal for help by creating a physical symptom to get your attention.
One theory of body syndromes that I came to learn about from my training at the Hypnosis Motivation Institute was that depending on the specific area of the body where the symptom is occurring, that this itself gives information about the nature and emotional cause of the symptom. The founder of the school and developer of this theory, John Kappas, PhD, defined five different body syndromes which included the crying syndrome, the responsibility syndrome, the sexual frustration or guilt syndrome, the fight or reaching syndrome and the flight syndrome.
The crying syndrome, for example, includes the area of the body from the solar plexus up, and covers the chest, head and neck areas. Physical problems in these areas are said to indicate an underlying inability to make a decision about something important to the individual. Other common problems with this syndrome are sinus problems, migraines, constriction of the throat muscles, grinding of the teeth and canker sores in the mouth.
The sexual frustration or guilt syndrome, on the other hand, affects the stomach, groin and lower back. Problems in these areas can indicate possible sexual frustration, sexual guilt, guilt about infidelity and feelings of sexual inadequacy. Physical symptoms may include stomach cramps, constipation, acid stomach, excessive menstrual cramps or bleeding, bladder infections, kidney problems or prostate problems.
Consequently, each area of the body was found to correspond to a different emotional dilemma or problem and when left unexpressed, the physical symptoms in those areas developed. Interestingly, when the related emotions were identified and finally expressed by the client and dealt with, the physical symptoms reduced and disappeared.
Other health professionals and authors such as Deepak Chopra, Caroline Myss and Judith Orloff have all written about this connection between the mind and the body as well, providing information about how different somatic symptoms correlate emotionally and how the different areas of the body express these issues. It’s like learning a foreign language, but once you understand it, your body has a whole new way to communicate and you have a way to understand it.
When we can look at our bodies not only as a tool to function, move and get things done in the world, but also as a communication device and a feedback loop, we are provided with a lot more information about what is going on internally within us and what unresolved issues and emotions we may need to look at. The symptoms don’t need to be seen as bad, but rather as an opportunity to wonder what the body is trying to express and a signal that we need to stop and pay attention. This is a good moment to pause and to take stock of what is going on in your life and the potential stressors or unexpressed feelings you may be holding in. Even if the immediate stressors can’t be removed, by taking some time to notice what’s really going on with your body, acknowledging the problem, and “listening” to it, you may already reduce some of the symptoms. Then by finding ways to “let out” the emotions, again, through things like physical exercise, journaling, talking to a friend, playing music, etc., you are honoring the emotion and providing a space for it to be expressed.
The most important thing when you are experiencing a physical problem is not to ignore it. After seeing a doctor to rule out any physical causes begin to ask yourself what underlying message the body is trying to communicate to you. What feelings, emotional stressors or difficulties are you not acknowledging or expressing in your life? What emotional needs are possibly being ignored or unfulfilled? Once you have identified some of the possibilities, you can then work towards finding ways to express these emotions or needs in a healthy way. This process can be liberating and also difficult at times depending on how deep the emotion has been buried or the intensity of it. However, with the knowledge of where the real problem is coming from, you have the potential to alleviate and eliminate these psychosomatic symptoms for good.
Article written by Tania Manczarek, LCSW. Tania is a licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and energy healer in Los Angeles, CA. Tania has an extensive background in the Mental Health field as a therapist, clinical supervisor and clinical director with various non-profit agencies. Tania has traveled the world incorporating what she has learned from many different cultures as well as from her own ongoing personal/spiritual growth and evolution. Her website is www.mymindbodyhealing.com.