Although often physical and mental health are considered separately and in their own right, the reality is that often one can greatly affect the other. In the same way that having a physical ailment can make you feel down, even to the point of depression, the opposite can also be true and often your mental health can have a marked impact on the body.
Psychosomatic illness is what is sometimes referred to as a physical illness that is ‘all in your head’ as its roots are not able to be detected in a scan, blood test or any other form of examination. In fact, reportedly up to 1 in 4 people who speak to their GP about a physical problem find that their symptoms cannot be explained by medical means. Though there is societal stigma surrounding what is and is not a ‘real’ illness it is safe to say that illness caused by stress can be just as debilitating as that of injury or a genetic abnormality. Often people who have tried all the usual processes of trying to track down the cause of the condition or illness they are struggling with can feel a certain amount of embarrassment at considering that it may be due to stress. But the power of the mind to stop your body in its tracks should not be dismissed so easily.
Many of us are already aware of psychosomatic responses in the body on a day-to-day basis- that excess sweating we get when we are stressed, the butterfly feeling in your stomach when we are excited, the feeling of being outside of your own body when we are put under the spotlight. While these responses are usually short lived and part and parcel to stressful or abnormal situations, often high levels of intense anxiety can cause more long-term effects in the body. The truth is that being stressed is exhausting on the body, your body floods with the hormones which activate your fight or flight responses, blood pumps to all the muscles, your senses sharpen to where they are needed the most. Prolonged exposure to these stressful situations can often have a debilitating effect on the immune system and bodily functions, and a lot of the time without us even really being aware of the link between the two.
As well as more shocking responses to anxiety which are often spoken about more candidly, such as having heart attacks due to stress, many chronic unexplained illnesses can be attributed to a slow burning heightened level of worry or the after effects of trauma. Complaints of pain in the body, extreme lethargy and inability to carry out day to day activities can sometimes have their route cause in the psyche rather than the body.
If you feel that you are suffering from an illness or discomfort which cannot be explained or detected by the usual medical processes, then perhaps it is worth turning your attention towards your mental health. Here at The Henry Centre in Southend we have a number of highly trained counsellors and mental health professionals who are well versed in how anxiety and trauma can manifest in a physical way. Often being able to discuss what is going on in your mind can provide an outlet and understanding of what emotions you are struggling with and as a by-product of this ease physical symptoms that may be linked.