Table of contents:
Psychosomatic diseases, or somatic symptoms disorder, are conditions caused by emotional changes that cause physical symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, racing heart, tremors or diarrhea, for example. Usually, symptoms that result from psychosomatic illnesses are not explained by any other illness or physical and/or organic alteration. Therefore, a person who has a psychosomatic illness may have several consultations with several doctors without ever being able to identify a cause.
The symptoms of this disorder are associated with emotional distress and, in some cases, with anxiety and depression disorders, being more frequent in people with a family history of somatization of traumatic experiences.
Treatment usually includes psychotherapy, in addition to follow-up with a psychiatrist, who may prescribe medication, such as antidepressants or anxiolytics, to help relieve symptoms.
Symptoms of psychosomatic illnesses
The appearance of symptoms may vary from one person to another, and there may be a feeling of discomfort in various parts of the body, such as:
- Stomach: pain or burning sensation in the stomach, nausea, worsening of gastritis or gastric ulcers;
- Intestine: diarrhea or constipation;
- Throat: feeling of a lump in the throat, constant easier irritation in the throat and tonsils;
- Lungs: feeling of shortness of breath or suffocation, which may simulate lung or heart disease;
- Muscles and joints: tension, contractures, muscle pain, or back pain;
- Heart and circulation: sensation of pain in the chest, which can even be confused with a heart attack, in addition to palpitations, emergence or worsening of high blood pressure;
- Kidneys and bladder: sensation of pain or difficulty urinating, which may mimic urological diseases;
- Skin: itching, burning or tingling;
- Intimate region: worsening impotence, decreased sexual desire, difficulty getting pregnant or menstrual cycle changes;
- Nervous system: insomnia, irritability, headache attacks, migraine, changes in vision, balance, sensitivity (numbness, tingling) and motricity, which can simulate neurological diseases.
People who have a psychosomatic illness may suffer for many months or years until the cause is discovered. These symptoms happen because stress and anxiety increase nerve activity in the brain, in addition to raising the levels of hormones in the blood, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which increases the intensity and duration of symptoms.
In children, the most common symptoms are frequent abdominal pain, headache, tiredness and nausea.
How the diagnosis is made
The diagnosis of a psychosomatic illness must be made by a psychiatrist through the evaluation of the signs and symptoms presented by the person, but a general practitioner or other specialist can suggest this alteration by excluding the presence of other diseases through exams physical and laboratory.
Diagnosis can be difficult, as symptoms are not enough to suspect a disease. Therefore, in many cases the person is treated with drugs that relieve symptoms, without treating the real cause.
There are several situations that facilitate the development of somatization, such as depression, anxiety or stress, and some of the causes are:
- Trauma in childhood or after significant events, in addition to family conflicts are some situations that can make a person afraid and unmotivated to move forward;
- Situations of psychological violence and demotivation, as in cases of domestic violence or bullying;
- Family history, since it is believed that genetics may be related to the development of this disorder;
- Learning: teachings on how to obtain medical attention or indicate illness, for example.
When you suspect any symptom indicative of a psychosomatic illness or if the person feels anxious or stressed frequently, it is recommended to go to the general practitioner so that tests are carried out that can rule out other diseases and, if necessary, be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Accompaniment by a psychologist is very important in these situations, as it helps the person to identify the reason for their stress and anxiety and, thus, be able to deal with this type of situation and adopt habits and strategies that promote feeling of well-being.
How to treat
In addition to medication, people with symptoms and psychosomatic illnesses must be monitored by a psychologist and psychiatrist, for psychotherapy sessions and medication adjustment. Some tips to learn how to overcome anxiety symptoms can also be followed, such as dedicating yourself to some pleasurable activity, for example.
Treatment is done with medication to relieve symptoms, such as analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and anti-nausea medication, in addition to medication to control anxiety, through antidepressants, such as sertraline or citalopram, or calming anxiolytics, such as diazepam or alprazolam, for example, if prescribed by the doctor.
Some simple, natural measures can also help you deal with emotional problems, such as drinking calming chamomile and valerian teas, taking a vacation to rest your mind, and trying to solve one problem at a time.Doing some form of physical exercise such as walking, jogging, yoga or pilates can also help promote well-being.