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What is Psychosomatic Illness

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PostPosted: Fri 13:45, 25 Mar 2011    Post subject: What is Psychosomatic Illness

Last month I was interviewed by Will Sacks about psychosomatic illness. Will hosts a website dedicated to psychosomatic problems. His mission is to create an online database of stories about people who have recovered from. He wants share stories about psychosomatic illnesses from all over the world. Following years of mis-diagnosis Will finally found the correct diagnosis for his back pain and got well. You can read more about Will Sacks' story and stories from other people on his website:
The Interview question and answers:
WS: What’s the difference between somatic and psychosomatic medicine?
IS: According The American Heritage Medical Dictionary, somatic means of, relating to, or affecting the body. Somatic medicine involves the cells of the body and is based on physical and biological aspects of the problem. The somatic approach is the traditional approach of western medicine and it usually deals with the symptoms of the problem. For example, a person comes to see a doctor and describes his/her symptoms. The doctor writes a drug prescription to get rid of the symptoms.
Psychosomatic means that a physical condition is caused or greatly influenced by psychological factors. The psychosomatic approach to health views illness as a form of communication between the conscious and the unconscious mind through the body. The psychosomatic approach sees Illness as a person’s way of adapting to an environment. It is a message that communicates a need for change. However, very few people interpret their illness as a form of communication or symptom of a deeper problem that needs to be dealt with. The most common solution today is to ignore the message and try to get rid of the symptoms.
Examples of psychosomatic illness include:
1. Illness as a socially accepted way of avoiding something unpleasant.
2. Illness as a subconscious mechanism of defense. There are many situations that people would rather avoid rather than deal with.
3. Illness as a cry for love, attention and warmth. When people get sick, they get attention, love and warmth from family members or friends.
4. Illness that signals a purpose crisis. There is a point in time when people begin to ask the question - What is the purpose of my life? Unable to answer this question, some people turn their illness into their purpose in life. Everything begins to revolve around it.
WS: Can you tell your own story with psychosomatic illness?
IS: At the age of 10 years old, I got infected with the Mumps virus. It was summer and all of my friends were outside playing and having fun. I had a strong desire to cure my illness and go play with my friends. When I asked my mother for advice, she told me to think of the mumps virus that I had as an intruder or “bad guys” inside my body and that I must use my own army to defeat the “bad guys”. Without any doubts, and with strong desire and full belief in the story, I made a firm decision to beat the “bad guys” inside my body. My method was simple - lie down and visualize a huge battlefield between the good army and the “bad guys”. After intense visualization I got up and just continued my usual day. The next day the mumps symptoms disappeared without any complications.
At the age of 20, I had a skin problem where red spots were appearing on my chest and neck. For the most part it was a cosmetic discomfort that brought certain limitations to my life. The skin problem had a strong correlation with my mood and body temperature. Unable to solve the problem through traditional cosmetic solutions, I examined the problem from the psychosomatic perspective. After intensive personal development, I was able to overcome some of my psychological issues that were causing the red spots. As a result,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], the skin problem disappeared forever.
These are just a few personal examples from my life. The main lesson that I have learned from these experiences is that we all have the power over our body. Our thoughts can change the condition of our body and everyone can change their thoughts. In order to change our thoughts, we must first be willing to change. Neur Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy and Positive Psychology are some of the best ways to go about changing your thoughts.
WS: What did you own experience teach you about the western “Somatic” approach to medicine?
IS: The western approach to medicine has tunnel vision. People are examined as “cases” with “symptoms”. Very few doctors spend enough time to really understand each person as a whole. The entire system is based on profit rather than true health care. People are processed as case numbers who will consume drugs and deduct money from insurance companies.
Doctors practicing western medicine are very important and knowledgeable and can be crucial in life. However for many illnesses, most western doctors can help but not ultimately cure the patient. By no means do I say that western medicine is bad. I think that western medicine is some of the best medicine in the world when it comes to emergencies and surgery. I just think that the healthcare system has some major flaws in it that are not helping people, and in some cases cause more harm than good.
WS: What percentage of illness in Western society do you think is psychosomatic in nature?
IS: I have not run any scientific experiments or collected statistical data to give an exact number. However, based on my experience and research I would say that about 85% to 90% of all health problems in our society are psychosomatic. I grew up in a family of doctors and I have seen many cases. Most people have health problems related to their mind. In order to fix their mind or their life, we need to start fixing their grandparents.
There are three main causes of illness (Lipton, 2009):
1. Trauma - often serious and body-altering physical injury. For example, removal of a limb or a broken rib.
2. Toxicity - chemical disturbance that causes the nervous system to send “bad” signals to the cells and the tissue. (Lipton, 2009) The sources of intoxication can include GMO, various food additives, pollution, radiation, beauty products, drugs and other sources.
3. Thoughts - accurate perception encourages success and misperception threatens survival. It is important to remember that cells, tissue and organs of the body do not question the information that is sent to them from the nervous system. Thus, we respond to life-affirming perceptions or self-destructive misperceptions every day. Our perception influences our fate. (Lipton, 2009) Our thoughts have the power to change our body chemistry. Some thoughts cause stress and some thoughts cause relaxation and self-rehabilitation.
WS: Why is psychosomatic illness so misunderstood and ignored in our society?
IS: I think that it is important to look back at our history. There was a point in time when the church was able to provide most of the answers to most of the questions. However from monotheism we moved to reformation and scientific materialism where the universe and the human body was viewed at as a machine. These were the times of Isaac Newton and mathematics. The next phase of our evolution was deism where there was balance between God and nature.
Scientific materialism began to shift attention away from God when Charles Darwin published his famous work - The Origin of Species. Our interpretation of reality shifted to natural selection, random mutation and the survival of the fittest. We then progressed to the DNA era where we started to see ourselves as the victims of our genes. Our fate was at the mercy of our genetic predisposition. Next came the human genome project which found that we have 23,000 genes which make us who we are. The genome project is an amazing opportunity for venture venture capitalist and the pharmaceutical companies to make huge profits. If the pharmaceutical companies can patent the technology to alter genes then they become in control of fixing and creating human bodies.
During the evolution of medicine many high ranking educational, medical and government institutions were formed. The foundation of these institutions was based on the material world - physiology, biology and genes. There was no room for psychosomatic approaches to health problems. However, we are now shifting towards holism where science considers both the body and the mind. Human beings are viewed as something greater than just a collection of organized cells. Unfortunately holism faces great resistance from well-established institutions that are based on the material view of the body and the world. The psychosomatic approach does not make profits for the pharmaceutical companies and would result in much lower consumption of drugs that treat only the symptoms.
WS: How can healthcare practitioners diagnose psychosomatic illness?
IS: I think the first step is to look at the person as a whole human being and not just as his/her symptoms. It is important to examine the lifestyle, family history, social circle, past, present and the future. I am not saying that we have to go into every single detail about their life, but we should at least give each person a chance to explain their situation.
There is also a placebo test that a health care practitioner can do to test for a psychosomatic illness. Take out some sugar pills and put them into a small glass bottle that will look like a remedy bottle. Explain to your patient that this is one of the most powerful remedies there is and that they should follow the instructions precisely. Tell them that the problem should go away in about a week. See what happens to them in a week. If their problem is solved, then it was probably a psychosomatic illness. If their problem remains the same, then you probably did not convince them well enough or the problem is somatic. Some recent research has shown that actual cures of diagnosed problems have occurred in this manner also.
WS: What are the best ways to treat psychosomatic illness?
IS: Think outside the box and examine people holistically. Ask questions and try to understand the problem. A good healthcare practitioner will help a person to understand the meaning of the illness so that it can be dealt with now and avoided in the future. A person cannot wake up in the morning and become ill for no reason. There is always something that the person did or did not do that caused the problem.
People should ask these questions:
What is the meaning of my illness?
What is the illness trying to communicate?
What can be changed?
What is the secondary gain from my illness?
One of the techniques that can be used when working with psychosomatic illness is to ask the person to imagine his/her problem. See if he/she can give that problem color, shape or movement. If the problem would look like something, what would it look like? Place it in a chair in front of you and ask the illness the following questions: What is it that you want to communicate to me? What is the point of my problem?
Listen to yourself without any judgment and notice the first thing that comes to your mind. What is it trying to communicate to you? Do not censor your answers.
When I asked one of my clients to place the problem in a chair, after a few minutes she had her eyes wide open. She saw her family member. She quickly confessed that her family member is a source of stress in her life, and that her health problem was a way to deal with this stress.
WS: How would our world be different if psychosomatic illness was better understood by patients and their health-care practitioners?
IS: I think that our society would take the next step in conscious evolution and conscious awareness. People would focus on progress and cooperation rather than destruction and competition. People would become more aware about their lifestyle and how much their thoughts influence their health. If adults would become more conscious about what they say, how they say and what they do, their children would have better lives. Most of the negative programming happens before the age of 6. Usually by that age, beliefs, values, attitude, outlook on life and life scenario are programmed by family members. If we could give our children the right programs for their minds, they would have a much better future.
Unfortunately we are still operating on principles such as survival of the fittest and profit making. It will take time but we have the power to change ourselves and make the next step in conscious evolution.
Bhaerman, S., & Ph.D., B. H. (2009). Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and a Way to Get There from Here). Carlsbad: Hay House.

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