Psychosomatic Doesn’t Mean Pretend

My body turns emotions into physical symptoms,  or somatizes. Anxiety makes my heart race and my breathing shallow.  Depression makes my core temperature drop several degrees. Stress makes my stomach bunch up in knots.

Pain all over

Psychosomatic symptoms are real physical symptoms caused by the brain. It’s important to clarify what that does and doesn’t mean. While they start in the brain, these symptoms are not “all in your head”. My heart rate really is elevated during a panic attack;  I don’t simply imagine that. My frequency of bathroom trips due to stress compounding IBS really goes up.

My mother had an extreme form of psychosomatic chronic joint pain for several years.  Intensive therapy to deal with past traumas (like having a cult leader for a mother) helped her over time to stop experiencing this pain. Now she is a very healthy marathon runner with no chronic joint problems.

While she was getting that therapy,  she didn’t ignore her somatic symptoms.  She used ice and heat, stretches and exercise,  topical and oral over-the-counter pain relief.  She treated the symptoms while finding the cure.

The brain is a part of the body, the master control room.  It sends and receives hormonal and electrical signals to and from the rest of the body. When an emotional problem is not being addressed,  the brain sends signals to other parts of the body, enlisting them in getting your attention.  The ways your body gets your attention tend to hurt. It’s equally important to hear the message and manage the hurt it caused.

In this very real, very physical way, the experience is not confined to the mind. Right now I’m nursing an overly sore and stiff back, brought on by having my C-PTSD triggered.  Once I’m done writing this, I will lie down with a heat pack and Netflix.  This will both address my short-term physical symptoms and keep me off social media when I’m likely to be triggered again.  Both matter. Psychosomatic doesn’t mean pretend. 

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