Psychosomatic disorders have a long history of being seen as less legitimate than visible, physical conditions, resulting in a damaging stigma. The very definition of psychosomatic means both mind and body, and there is a scientific explanation for even these unseen conditions. The good news is, the symptoms of psychosomatic disorders can, with guided care, be lessened or controlled.

What is a Psychosomatic Disorder?

Psychosomatic disorder or somatic symptom disorder describes a worsening or creation of physical symptoms caused, at least in part, by an individual's state of mind. You may have heard stress can make you sick. Stress is scientifically proven to lower your immune system. As well, the condition can turn on the body's fight or flight response switch, and once this happens, it can be extremely difficult to ease the resulting anxiety or tension. Our brains can be a factor in many ailments such as chronic pain, fatigue, and the aggravation of lymph nodes.


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How Exactly Can Mental Factors Cause Physical Pain?

Stress and anxiety can cause physical symptoms to fluctuate for a few reasons. Prominently, the human body is designed to respond to fear and agitation the way our ancestors did: fighting or fleeing. Even in our modern society, our bodies respond the same way to worrying stimuli. A panic attack is a good example of a psychosomatic issue.


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What Factors Raise the Risk of Developing a Psychosomatic Disorder?

While anyone can develop a psychosomatic illness, some factors can increase the likelihood. Because psychosomatic pain a psychological issue rather than physical, mental illness can make a person more susceptible. Other factors include personal disposition, environmental factors, family and biological influences, and learned behavior.


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What are Some More Common Physical Symptoms?

Some of the most common physical symptoms of psychosomatic attacks such as panic attacks are shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, dizziness, fatigue, and muscle weakness.


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How Do I Know if My Symptoms are Psychosomatic or Not?

If you are unsure whether you're experiencing psychosomatic symptoms -- if you have pain you cannot trace to a source, for instance -- speak to a doctor.  An internal condition may be causing your pain, or it could be psychosomatic. Getting an outside opinion can help put your fears to rest which, as mentioned, could alleviate some of your symptoms.


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Can I Use the Internet to Diagnose Myself?

These days, it is easy to attempt an at-home diagnosis by searching your symptoms online. While this practice can be a place to start and arm you with questions to bring to your doctor, it is important to remember many symptoms are attributed to a wide range of conditions, from minor to severe. For some people with a psychosomatic illness, seeing the more serious possible conditions can exacerbate things.


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Is Psychosomatic Disorder the Same as Hypochondria?

A psychosomatic disorder is different than hypochondria, though, like the latter, the former can lead to severe anxiety about one's medical wellbeing. Basic anxiety can grow to become health anxiety, an anxiety disorder that describes an obsession with a perceived current or incoming medical condition.


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How Can I Make the Pain Stop?

The first step toward stopping pain and other psychosomatic symptoms is to recognize they are psychosomatic, caused by stress or anxiety, and that having stress or anxiety doesn't make you weak or broken. Mental illness can be as debilitating as physical illness, but accepting this less visible diagnosis is key to beginning treatment.


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Treating Psychosomatic Disorders

Because of their link to the cognitive mind, the primary course of action to treat psychosomatic pain is CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). This guided therapy can help patients come to terms with how their minds work, and how their behaviors can influence their lives and bodies. CBT teaches clients how to cope with their psychosomatic symptoms. The therapy isn't a magical cure, but regular and routine sessions help you to gain control.


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What Changes I Can Make to Help Me Cope?

Combining CBT, medication, and at-home care techniques is a great way to combat a psychosomatic disorder. Experts recommend adopting some strategies to take your mind off the symptoms include keeping busy, practicing relaxation or meditation techniques, speaking with a physician, and avoiding negative or detrimental habits.


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