While no one thinks twice if they getting butterflies in their stomach before going on stage or the ache in your chest if your crush throws you a smile, when you start talking about emotions causing physical pain, people look at you like you’re talking about voodoo. Yet emotions, both good and bad, have huge impacts on the body’s health and can literally cause physical pain.
Psychogenic pain, sometimes called psychalgia, is real pain caused by emotional factors. Most often this pain manifests in headaches, back pain, or stomach issues, including cramping, diarrhea, and even Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). According to studies done on the brain, there is no way to differentiate between pain caused by physical ailments and those caused by emotional. Although most people have experienced this kind of pain in mild forms, the idea of psychogenic pain is still socially stigmatized, dismissed and not considered real pain by most people.
Psychalgia is real and you can support your physical and emotional well-being by staying informed.
Pay Attention to Your Words
If you’re hesitant to believe that emotions can cause physical pain, take a moment to look at these common sayings.
- That child is a pain in the neck.
- You’re killing me.
- That was gut-wrenching.
- I can’t stand it anymore.
- I’ve got the weight of the world on me.
Pain Happens in the Brain
No matter where you hurt on your body, the pain is actually occurring in the brain. Nerve signals run back and forth from across the body and once the brain receives a signal that there has been tissue damage, a neurological process occurs that makes you feel pain. It makes sense that other stimuli, such as stress, sadness, or anger, can also cause the brain to create a similar neurological response. For those who experience chronic pain, which is pain that lasts long after the body has healed, chances are emotional issues may be the root cause.
While this may sound new age, it’s old medical philosophy. Ancient Chinese medicine had no doubt that emotions interfered with the body and its functions. Even modern medicine agrees that stress and anxiety can slow the body’s ability to heal, increase a person’s risk of heart disease and obesity. It may also have an effect on the development of Type 2 diabetes.
If you’re experiencing physical pain but don’t know the cause, Dr. Nandi wants you to step back and examine your mental and emotional health. Physical symptoms of emotional pain are the body’s way of reminding you that you may have underlying emotional issues that need to be addressed so that your body can heal properly.
Caring for the mind is just as important as caring for the body. In fact, one cannot be healthy without the other.