Hey there friends! Let's dive into a topic that's been floating around the holistic and spiritual communities for a few decades now—psychosomatic illness. You know, the idea that all your aches and pains are caused by bottled-up emotions and trauma? Sounds nice and easy, right? Just heal your emotional trauma, and boom, no more sickness. Well, hold on a sec! The truth is, most illnesses aren't psychosomatic. Most of the time, it's not like a sad, angry feeling is creating a physical problem, it's usually the other way around. Chronic illness can mess with your emotions, leaving you feeling down in the dumps.
The idea of psychosomatic illness has been popularized by public figures like Louise Hay, author of "You Can Heal Your Life" where she philosophizes that health conditions are caused by emotional states. For example, she believes that acne is caused by "dislike of the self" and diseases of the thyroid gland are caused by the feeling of "never getting to do what I want to do". While it may be true that people with acne and thyroid disease often think these thoughts, could it be possible that perhaps their health condition is leading them to do so? Isn't it a normal human response to not like your skin when it's covered in acne? And isn't it normal to feel like life is passing you by when you have thyroid disease that causes you to feel fatigued and depressed?
Most people who I see touting around the idea of psychosomatic illness are.... well... healthy. It's a comforting thought to think that if you ever get sick, all you have to do is a little bit of therapy and all your disease will melt away. But rarely do I see someone with chronic illness feeling comforted by this concept, because it's simply not true in most cases. And going on a wild goose chase trying to identify the trauma that is making you ill can be a toxic exercise when in reality your illness is caused by something else entirely.
Don't get me wrong, I do believe that emotional, mental and spiritual health are incredibly important. And yes, I do believe psychosomatic illness exists. But I recognize the bias that we humans have in wanting to believe we can completely control the state of our body just by healing our emotions, having spiritual epiphanies or controlling our thoughts.
Not only is the concept of psychosomatic illness comforting to those who are healthy, it can also be driven by ego too. Often, when a person has never experienced any sort of significant illness themselves, it can be tempting for them to assume it's because they have done something right and that people who are chronically ill must have done something wrong. It's not a far leap for someone with this kind of mentality to assume that "I'm healthy because I think positively all the time and if I continue to think positively, I'll continue to be healthy". This is called "survivorship bias", which is the the assumption that someone who has "survived" a hardship (ie. a human who has survived life without getting sick) has done so because of their superior strategies and actions while completely ignoring all the people who used these same strategies and actions and did not "survive" (ie. they became ill anyway).
While this idea of psychosomatic illness is very popular in spiritual and holistic communities, it's also accepted by the medical community - at least when it suits them. Often when someone with "invisible chronic illness" goes to the doctor, they get brushed off and told their symptoms are simply psychosomatic and are prescribed anti-depressants to treat their symptoms. This can leave a lot of significant chronic diseases untreated - at least until they get so pronounced they are no longer ignorable.
Instead of oversimplifying the idea of psychosomatic disease, let's flip the script and talk about something that's a lot more helpful - "somatopsychic" disease. It means that your physiological imbalances in your physical body can actually mess with your mental state. By addressing the physical aspects of your chronic illness you can give your mental well-being a fighting chance!
In the work that I do with my clients, I've explored the impact of histamine (a neurotransmitter) on mental health. Did you know that imbalances in histamine can worsen (or even cause) schizophrenia and narcolepsy? I've seen gut problems cause mental health problems like depression, anxiety and overthinking. And I've seen how poor liver health can cause mood swings and uncontrollable anger. It would be silly for me to think that all these conditions are psychosomatic and caused by emotional trauma when it's obvious that they are the result of anti-biotic use, poor diet and over-use of medications.
Positive thinking and healing emotional trauma are always beneficial, but let's not oversimplify things in the name of comfort. Dealing with chronic illness requires a comprehensive approach. It's not just about repeating positive affirmations or magically healing your emotional wounds. You need a quality plan that includes well-rounded professional guidance. So, let's keep it real and avoid looking for quick fixes.
When you're dealing with chronic illness, you need people who've got your back. Friends who get it. Instead of offering clichéd advice or sugar-coated solutions, what you really need is someone to listen, someone who understands your unique struggles. Empathy and validation can make a world of difference on this bumpy road.
The whole psychosomatic illness idea might sound appealing, but it can sometimes be more of an escapist fantasy than based in reality. Remember, your body and mind are interconnected, and that also means that your physical body can affect your mental health. So, let's ditch the oversimplifications and embrace a holistic approach that respects the complexities of chronic illness.
If you're looking for support in your health journey, reach out to me for a free call to see if I can help you. I work 100% online and can speak with you no matter where you live in the world.