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The balance of mind and body

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Did you know that pains and bodily disorders can be caused due to your wild imagination? Pranika Sharma tells you more about psychosomatic disorders

The word ‘psychosomatic’ is a mouthful, but what happens is even more complicated. In simple terms it is when physical reactions and symptoms appear due to psychological reasons. A person may be unable to walk but it will have nothing to do with their leg muscles. Strange, isn’t it? The problem lies in the mind. So, while blushing is a psychosomatic response, it is a normal reaction and does not represent an illness. It is when the physical symptoms impair a person's ability to function that we call it a psychosomatic illness.

In psychosomatic disorders or illnesses, no physical cause will show up on medical tests or during a physical examination. However, it will still appear to be a very real disease or disorder. The physical symptoms may even be causing distress, but the person is not in conscious control. And, no they are not faking on purpose. It is simply that their brain is controlling their body, and it tells them that they are sick.

Medical practitioners classify psychosomatic disorders into various types based on the cause and the characterisation. Psychosomatic disorders are complex and not well understood. In fact, the latest psychological guidelines, the DSM-V, are still coming to terms with the different kinds of disorders. Here we tell you about some of them. 

  •  Undifferentiated Somatoform Disorder: This is a general type of psychosomatic disorder, in which a person experiences one or more symptoms such as pain, fatigue, loss of appetite and gastrointestinal problems. These are essentially caused by excessive stress and can be seen over a long period of time — about six months or so.  
  •  Somatization Disorder: This type is seen in people between the ages of 18 and 30, since the human body goes through hormonal changes during this time. It is these hormonal changes that can cause neurological, menstrual, sexual and gastrointestinal symptoms to occur in individuals.
  •  Unspecified Somatoform Disorder: This is a more serious type of psychosomatic disorder and in it, patients suffer from chronic pain, fear of having a medical illness and loss of sensory function and voluntary motor control.
  •  Hypochondriasis: In this type of disorder, patients fear of having long-term illness, which will cause serious harm to their body, regardless of medical tests or multiple consultations.
  •  Body Dysmorphic Disorder: People who suffer from this type often feel that there is a physical defect in their body or features. Some might resort to cosmetic surgery, others to drastic and even dangerous diets.


This involves talking about anxieties and perceptions. Talking about it may help with the symptoms because the physical symptoms can be related to psychological distress. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a specific kind of psychotherapy that has been shown to help. It involves examining and reflecting on one’s beliefs and expectations to reduce preoccupation with the symptoms of psychosomatic disorder.

It is seen that antidepressant medication can help with psychosomatic disorders and responses. But, always talk to your doctor before taking any new medication. If one type of medication doesn’t seem to be working, you can ask your doctor to try others or to combine medication in order to increase its effectiveness.


Simple lifestyle changes may reduce the occurrence of psychosomatic episodes. Stress management and relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, may help in improving the symptoms and fighting the disorder.

Get physically active. Exercise can have a calming effect on your mood and improve physical symptoms.

Social interaction
Get involved in work, social activities and family activities. Keep yourself engaged!

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