The active development of psychosomatics began after a group of scientists from the University of Chicago identified a link between stress and seven diseases: hypertension, bronchial asthma, ulcerative colitis, hyperthyroidism, neurodermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers. This list was named the Chicago Seven (Holy Seven, Classic Seven).
- Seven Psychosomatic Diseases
- Hypertension, Arterial Hypertension
- Ulcerative Colitis, Gastric and Duodenal Ulcers
- Bronchial Asthma
- Neurodermatitis, Psoriasis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Hyperfunction of the Thyroid Gland
- Inner Conflict
- Body Language
- Conditional Benefit
- Past Experience
- What’s Needed for Recovery
Seven Psychosomatic Diseases
After identifying the Chicago Seven, psychologists continued to explore the interrelation of mind and body. Since then (1932), the list of psychosomatic diseases has expanded significantly. Initially, diabetes, ischemia, and obesity were included, later acknowledging the stress connection with all known diseases. Let’s consider the classic version of the Chicago Seven with the addition of diabetes (the most popular list).
Hypertension, Arterial Hypertension
Cause: suppressed emotions, unprocessed traumas, emotional blockage. Particularly at risk are sensitive, emotional people and those who keep everything inside. These individuals resemble a boiling pot covered with a lid. If not opened, an explosion is inevitable. Focus in therapy: acknowledging and vocalizing feelings, releasing them.
Ulcerative Colitis, Gastric and Duodenal Ulcers
Causes of stomach and intestinal ulcers include:
These emotions arise when expectations aren’t met, and the individual doesn’t receive the expected support and care. Unable to express aggression, it begins to internally consume the person. Self-blame and self-criticism follow. The next stage of the disease is ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis develops against a backdrop of deep resentment, vulnerability, emotional instability, and a feeling of defenselessness. The person becomes so disillusioned with the world, a situation, or an individual that they decide to withdraw into themselves. Meanwhile, resentment and anger continue to internally consume them.
Focus in psychotherapy: boosting self-esteem, gestalt therapy, affirmations.
Causes: suppressed aggression, fear, restraint. Asthma affects dependent, indecisive individuals. They feel as if someone is cutting off their oxygen with excessive care and total control. These individuals don’t feel free, unable to breathe freely.
The predisposition often arises in childhood, due to either overprotection or a lack of love and attention. Asthma may be a cry for attention and care or a way to express accumulated resistance.
Helpful in treatment: relaxation, art therapy, affirmations.
Diabetes results from chronic dissatisfaction with life. Family and work conflicts, constant overloads, aversion to work, inability to relax and enjoy life, pessimism – all lead to diabetes. Such individuals lack meaning and purpose in life, not recognizing its value. Underlying all this is an unmet need for love and closeness.
Helpful in psychotherapy: positive and existential psychotherapy, gratitude lessons.
Skin diseases develop in sensitive, vulnerable individuals. The need for attention, fear, and helplessness become the reasons for the disease. Through the disease, the person says, “Look what you have done to me!”
These individuals often find themselves in unpleasant situations, living a victim narrative. The origin of such a narrative lies in childhood. The issue might be in the mother-child relationship, possibly involving emotional alienation or rejection. Through the mother’s warmth and care, we learn about the world. If the mother is emotionally cold, the world is perceived as dangerous and frightening.
Important! Both overprotection and emotional coldness from parents have a detrimental effect on a child’s development. This leads to a desire to isolate oneself from the world, become independent, and find one’s true self. This is reflected in skin flaking and irritation, as if the person is shedding their skin.
Focus in treatment: enhancing self-esteem, developing communication skills, group psychotherapy.
Develops from disappointment, resentment, bitterness, anger, unfulfilled need for love. The disease restricts joint mobility and deforms them, similar to the emotional sphere of such individuals. They suppress or ignore their emotions, being secretive and restrained in expressing feelings.
- Rigidity in stereotypes and moral principles
- Critical attitude
- Strictness with oneself
- Engaging in disliked activities
- Rigid thinking
- Rejection of everything new and unfamiliar
High expectations and demands inevitably lead to disappointments. This accumulates anger and resentment. The emotions are so powerful that they paralyze the individual, preventing change or even altering one’s approach to work and life. The disease says: “Become more flexible, straighten up, soften, look around.”
Focus in treatment: hypnosis, psychodrama, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy.
Hyperfunction of the Thyroid Gland
Hyperthyroidism is caused by fear. The thyroid gland is involved in the body’s defense, and its function is related to general immunity. Constant tension weakens the defense. Often combined with hyperresponsibility and attempts to control everything. Control provides a sense of security. Such people are always ready to defend, trying to plan everything, maximizing safety for themselves and their loved ones.
A hostile attitude to the world often forms in childhood. Possibly, parents neglected their duties, and the family environment was psychologically unfavorable. Such children have to mature early, defend themselves, and stop trusting the world, becoming introverted.
Focus in treatment: hypnosis, relaxation, meditation.
Causes of Psychosomatic Diseases
Although psychosomatic diseases have varied causes, several common precursors can be identified. These help in understanding who is at risk and the mechanisms of psychosomatic development.
The contradiction between an individual’s consciousness and subconscious manifests as a conflict of the soul and later the body. A common contradiction is the clash between “want” and “must.” Some people feel forced to interact with unpleasant individuals, engage in disliked activities, or remain in hurtful relationships. In reality, they always have a choice, needing only to rid themselves of destructive beliefs.
Sometimes, unknowingly, we program our minds. We overlook the significance of phrases like:
- “I can’t stomach this”
- “It gives me a headache”
- “It makes me sick”
- “You’re smothering me with your care” These phrases act as self-suggestions.
In some cases, illness offers a hidden benefit, like time for rest, an excuse to avoid certain duties, unpleasant people, or disliked activities. To identify the benefit, consider what the illness prevents you from doing and what it allows. The first represents life’s burdens; the second, what you lack for happiness.
An illness can be a delayed reaction to past negative experiences. Any childhood trauma, short or prolonged exposure to stressors, can lead to health deterioration in adulthood. Unprocessed traumatic situations continue to affect the individual internally.
Strong attachment to someone can lead to adopting their illness. Identification can also occur if you fear losing a loved one or have already experienced loss.
Refers to hypochondria. Daily exposure to alarming media reports or witnessing a loved one’s illness can lead suggestible, psychologically weak individuals to develop a pathological fear of death. They constantly read medical literature, listen for the slightest symptoms, self-diagnose, and seek confirmation, ultimately falling ill due to constant stress.
Chronic guilt drives individuals to seek punishment and inflict pain on themselves. Such people are programmed for self-destruction; illness becomes their means of self-punishment.
What’s Needed for Recovery
If facing a psychosomatic illness, medication alone won’t help. Drugs only alleviate symptoms and mask the problem. Psychological work on consciousness is necessary. However, if the illness stems from actual organic damage (like ulcers, colitis, infections), psychotherapy alone is insufficient. Treatment should be comprehensive: medication and psychological correction.
Additionally, learning self-care and a healthy lifestyle is crucial. This includes:
- Adequate rest and sleep
- Proper nutrition
- Finding a hobby
- Relaxing through breathing exercises, meditation
The Latin saying “Mens sana in corpore sano” (A healthy mind in a healthy body) is well-known, but psychosomatics acknowledges the reverse is also true. Equal care for mental and physical health is essential.
Important! To uncover the true cause of internal conflict, consulting a specialist is recommended. A psychoanalyst will conduct professional diagnostics, choose an individual psycho-correction and rehabilitation scheme, enabling faster and more effective disease management.