You’ve probably heard at some point that a person’s blood pressure has gone up or their hair is falling out due to anxiety. In these cases, we consider that a mental phenomenon is the cause of a real physiological phenomenon.
These examples do not seem very important in terms of health, but in other cases more serious illnesses can be found, causing pain or discomfort or even disabling in a vital area for the subject. here we would talk about a psychosomatic disorder.
When sickness is caused by the mind
Psychosomatic disorder is understood to mean any disorder with a visible and medically verifiable correlate in the body which is caused and / or reinforced by psychic or mental elements. In other words, psychosomatic means any situation in which mental processes have a direct, concrete and easily demarcated effect on one or more areas of the body.
That means there is not a single psychosomatic disorder, but there is a wide variety depending on the type of physical symptoms and the body system that is damaged.
The causes of this type of disorder are, as we have said, mental, but there is no single process by which they are formed. Usually they imply the existence of stress, anxiety, frustration or mental discomfort persistent over time, which cause continuous suffering, react physically to the body and cause it real damage. Damage is usually caused by the continued release of adrenaline and cortisol or by the presence of deficits or excess in the usual release of neurotransmitters and hormones.
Disorders generated or accentuated by the psyche
Psychosomatic disorders are many and varied, and can affect different systems such as endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive or immune.
Some of the main disorders that can arise or worsen largely due to psychic causes are as follows.
- Heart diseases: angina pectoris, myocardial infarction.
- vascular alterations: Hypertension.
- Pneumopathies: asthma.
- Gastrointestinal disorders: peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome colitis.
- Metabolic disorders: diabetes mellitus.
- Genitourinaris: dysmenorrhea, polyuria.
- Dermopathies: acne, eczema.
- Immunopathies: cancer, infectious diseases.
Differences between somatomorphic and psychosomatic disorders
Psychosomatic and somatomorphic disorders are often confused. However, we are dealing with different types of disorders, because despite agreeing on different fundamental and determining aspects, there is a major difference.
This difference is that, while in somatomorphic disorders the patient suffers from a series of symptoms of a physical or physiological type but nevertheless does not have a physiological correlate in the form of tissue damage, in psychosomatic disorders there are visible and detectable lesions in the body. .
So, the main difference is that in psychosomatic disorders there is organic damage or real physical illness while in somatomorphs, they are not visible, Although in both cases there are symptoms of them and in both cases also the problem is caused or potentiated by a psychic phenomenon.
Treatment of psychosomatic disorder
The treatment of psychosomatic disorders can be complex, and to do so requires the participation of a multidisciplinary team, and is particularly necessary. the participation of specialists in medicine and psychology.
In general, the type of treatment will vary widely depending on the type of condition that is generated or potentiated. For example, an ulcer will have a different treatment than dysmenorrhea or angina or arrhythmia.
Pharmacological and medical intervention
Pharmacologically and medically, treatment will mainly focus on treating the symptoms presented and the tissue damage from which it arises. As anxiety and mood are linked to this type of disorder, treating these aspects at the pharmacological level can also be very helpful, although under this aspect medication they usually only have a temporary effect and symptoms may reappear.
At the psychological level, it is fundamental that the patient is able to express the psychological reason for which he generates the symptoms, it will therefore be necessary to use dedicated techniques for this purpose. The use of these techniques used in the treatment of anxiety, stress and depression is recommended. In addition to this, the type of condition generated and the effects that its existence may have on the psychic level on the patient should be taken into account.
Perform different relaxation techniques, problem-solving technique, learn different methods to tolerate and manage stress and anxiety, and even train in social skills (in cases where the anxiety is exacerbated by a deficit of this type skills), cognitive restructuring to modify dysfunctional beliefsSystematic desensitization or psychodrama can be very helpful in improving symptoms.
The use of theatricalization in the form of role play, modeling or psychodrama is an element to take into account and which can greatly contribute to the improvement of symptoms by allowing the subject to express or even become aware of the origin of his illness or the reason for which he has it. accentuated.
Also, the realization of a moderate physical exercise (if necessary, because if there is a coronary pathology it is necessary to be careful on this aspect), the expression of conflicts or even of elements like aromatherapy they can be useful for this type of patient.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
- Bruceta, JM; Well, AM; Plus, B. (2000). Psychological intervention in health disorders. Dykinson.
- Sandin, B. (1993). Stress and health: factors involved in the relationship between stress and physical illness. Madrid: Pyramid.