By psychosomatic disorders, we mean the diseases of general pathology (affecting all medical specialties) which are wholly or partly due to psychological factors conscious or unconscious.
To get an indication of how widespread psychosomatic disorders are, let’s look at what areas of our health are covered by the American Psychiatric Society, which classifies these phenomena into the following ten categories:
• Skin: neurodermatitis, allergic dermatitis, eczema, hair loss, etc.
• Musculoskeletal: back pain, cramps, neuropathies, hypertension headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
• Respiratory: asthma, relapsing bronchitis, etc.
• Circulatory: hypertension, tachycardia, other heart disease such as arrhythmia or coronary stenosis, migraines, headaches, etc.
• Hematologic: blood disorders such as increased coagulation and disorders of the lymphatic system.
• Gastrointestinal: ulcer, gastritis, spastic colitis, etc.
• Gynecology: period cycle disorders, lack of sexual interest, psychosexual disorders, etc.
• Endocrine: hyperthyroidism, psychogenic brachemia, diabetes mellitus etc.
• Sensory Disorders: Psychogenic pain, etc.
• Nervous system disorders in which the emotional factor plays an important role, such as multiple sclerosis, etc.
If we add to this incomplete list diseases with necessary biological causes, such as infectious diseases whose appearance and intensity depend on the effectiveness of the immune system, we understand the magnitude of the influence of psychological factors, mental and emotional, on the condition of our health.
We know today that the effectiveness of our immune system is decisively influenced by psychological factors such as stress and depression. According to relatively recent experimental data, we can also say that psychological factors have a significant influence on the occurrence and development of diseases such as herpes, tuberculosis or cancer; diseases that seem to have nothing to do with our mental and emotional state.
The effect of the mental factors in this case is through their effect on the immune system and this is done even though the appearance of these conditions requires action:
a. Pathogenic micro-organisms (germs or viruses such as tuberculosis, influenza, herpes, etc.)
b. Reproductive disorders of the cells of the body as it happens in malignant tumors (cancer)
The presence of the external pathogen alaone, germs or mutant cells, although necessary, is not sufficient for disease. A prerequisite is for the pathogenic internal environment to weaken the body’s defenses, ie the immune system, which normally destroys pathogens; but as already mentioned, the immune system’s functioning is under the influence of emotions, in particular anxiety and depression. We can summarize the above in a figure:
Case 1: germ + healthy immune system = the person remains healthy.
Case 2: germ + weakened immune system = illness (the person is suffering from a seemingly “pure” physical condition). It is therefore not surprising that in a multicenter study conducted in the US and published in Gastroenterology in 1976, it was concluded that the proportion of so-called psychosomatic diseases across pathology is significantly greater than the corresponding organic diseases. The results have been confirmed in dozens of similar surveys that preceded or followed are mentioned.
The fact that psychic have a decisive influence on our health is already known in the “folk wisdom”. We can take a look at the rich psychosomatic vocabulary we use daily, and from which we can mention but a few characteristic expressions:• ( some of them are Greek ) My head boiling• I had a cold sweat • My legs were cut off, it breaks my heart • it took my breath away • I was stunned by my fear • I was blown away • • I can’t digest it I have butterfly stomach !!!(etc.)
The scientific knowledge on the interdependence of mental factors and physical condition has significantly advanced in recent years, and resulted in the birth of a number of new disciplines that have come to fill the gap between psychology and biological medicine. These areas have complex names such as: psycho-neuro-endocrinology, psycho-biology, psycho-neuro-immunology, behavioral medicine, etc.
Their findings completely changed our knowledge of psychosomatic interactions as well as the potential for therapeutic intervention.
We know today that any changes in our biological state is accompanied by a corresponding change in our mental and emotional state, consciously or unconsciously.
Conversely, any changes in our mental and emotional state is accompanied by a corresponding change in our biological state. We can say that every cognitive-emotional process causes measurable changes in our physiological state and vice versa. The old mind-body opposition gave way to a new concept on psychosomatic unity. Our thoughts and emotions are but different aspects of the same functional unity.
But let’s take look at what physical changes accompany emotions and form the link between the psychic and the biological, the “medium” through which the “soul” influences the body. An example of this relationship is the immediate reaction first described by physiologist Walter Bradfor Cannon (1871 – 1945) in 1932 in his book the Wisdom of the Body. He leads to the knowledge of the psychophysiological reactions that accompany the “stress” emotion:
• In the cardiovascular system: increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased blood flow to the muscles, contraction of the spleen (thus releasing red blood cells).
• In the respiratory system: increase the frequency and depth of breathing.
• In the musculoskeletal system: increase muscle tone.
• On the skin: vasoconstriction, reduction of electrical resistance of the skin, hair straightening, increase in the function of sweat glands.
• In the digestive system: decreased salivary ph, digestive tract motility disorders, gastric secretion disorders.
• In the blood: an increase in the number of red blood cells, hyperglycaemia-hyperlipidemia, an increase in blood coagulation.
• In the hormonal system inter alia: increased adrenaline and noradrenaline secretion, increased corticotropin and corticoid secretion, increased thyroid function (and therefore basal metabolism).
Of course, the psycho-physiological reactions that accompany the emotions are the expression of the functional unity of the body and are perfectly normal when they remain under the control of self-regulatory mechanisms.; but when these emotions are constant and highly variable, then they can exceed the body’s adaptation thresholds and may have disruptions in the functioning of various systems, called functional or neurophysiological disorders, which if sustained for a longer period of time lead to no more damages of the function but of the organs themselves (histological lesions, with structural-anatomic lesions).
Here are two examples: G / Gastric fluid overload is a classic reaction to stress and a functional disorder that, if not treated, can cause stomach ulcers which require histologic lesions of the stomach walls. B / In conditions of stress or severe emotional reactions, a number of functional disorders of the cardiovascular system are observed such as: 1. spasm of the coronary arteries that carry blood to the heart. 2. hyperlipidemia which produces atherosclerotic plaques, ie cholesterol plaques that “block” the coronary arteries (which carry blood to the heart). 3. Increased blood coagulation that causes blood clots (blood stones), which can clog the vessels and reduce or stop blood flow to vital organs.
Imagine what would happen if all three of the factors mentioned above, and in particular Factors 2 and 3, worked in the heart or brain: we would have a heart attack or a stroke respectively.
Reversible psychogenic functional disorder of types 1,2 and 3 will cause severe irreversible histological damage, ie heart or brain damage, which can be fatal …
And now a reasonable question arises: What can we do if we suffer from chronic functional psychosomatic disorders? What can we do to prevent histological damage? There is a solution. The answer is in the affirmative.
The solution or cure is in the education of the individual, in the conscious control of the psycho-physiological reactions, in the control of the mental – emotional processes that lead him to reactions of anxiety, distress, sadness, anger and so on. and are the mental cause of his physical disorders.
Unfortunately, there are very few psychosomatic therapists in our countriestoday, and treatment often involves the use and frequent abuse of anxiolytic drugs with a purely symptomatic effect (ie, reducing the symptoms at best, while the pathogenic causes continue. their).
The solution therefore lies in a reasonably oriented treatment by a specially trained therapist whose goal is to achieve through the successful combination of nocentric (psychological) and somatocentric (psychophysiological) techniques that underlie the causative psychosomatic therapy.
The ancient Greeks had deified Time, believing it as the father of everything but depends on how and where is to be spend ….