Psychosomatic Causes of Cough in Children and Adults, Methods to Combat Cough Syndrome

Have you ever experienced a sudden cough during a conversation? Your throat goes dry, muscles seem to tighten, and the coughing fit is so intense that you can’t utter another word? Some people attribute this to dry or cold air, others just drink water and forget about it. But a third category suspects the psychosomatic nature of the cough.

What is Psychogenic Cough

Psychogenic cough resembles that seen in colds, but its specificity lies in its direct connection to a person’s psycho-emotional state. Another difference is the absence of other symptoms. It is a cough without signs of a cold. If it’s a nervous cough, medications don’t help.

Signs of Psychosomatic Cough

A nervous cough has specific characteristics:

  • Dryness: Never accompanied by mucus, it sounds ringing and more like a bark. It can persist for several weeks without changing in character. Emotional shocks influence it: the cough becomes quieter or more ringing.
  • Breathing Disorders (Shortness of Breath, Feeling of Suffocation): The stronger the emotional shock, the more accompanying symptoms: dizziness, headache, throat irritation, muscle weakness, general weakness.
  • Cough during conversation, changes in speech: Words become hard to pronounce, sounding more like a howl from the depths of the lungs.
  • Discomfort in the eyes: Pain, burning, itching.

Sometimes the dryness disappears, and mucus appears. Psychosomatic cough with mucus: anger at oneself and external accusations. Mucus is a logical continuation of untreated dry psychosomatic cough.

Important! Psychosomatic cough has no medical basis, but this doesn’t mean the situation should be ignored. Without treatment, the symptom becomes chronic, intensifying with each emotional shock, and can lead to real somatic disorders.

Who is Most Susceptible to Psychogenic Cough

Three risk groups can be identified:

  1. Children: Their psyche and body are unstable, weak. They are in the process of development and maturation, less resistant to stress and more prone to emotional disorders.
  2. People with mental disorders and psychological diseases, like neurosis, depression.
  3. Pregnant women: Hormonal changes during this period decrease stress resistance.

Psychosomatic cough in adults: Risk group includes people working in conditions of high moral responsibility and those whose lifestyle and conditions lead to a constantly oppressed mental state. People living in constant tension are prone to nervous cough.

Psychosomatic Causes of Cough

To permanently rid of cough, its psychological cause must be identified and eliminated. Otherwise, the problem will recur. So, can a cough be due to nerves? Yes, coughing can be a nervous reaction. Let’s look at possible causes in more detail.


At the peak of emotional excitement, stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline) are produced. They stimulate energy production and accumulation. The longer the energy finds no outlet, the more the hormonal balance is disrupted. This disrupts the body’s main systems, leading to various psychosomatic disorders, including psychosomatic cough.


Constantly accumulating worries have the same effect as chronic stress. Essentially, any negative emotions frequently experienced turn into chronic stress. Constant tension worsens moral and physical health.


The environment affects our mood, thinking, perception and self-perception, behavior, state. Any negativity in relationships can trigger a psychosomatic episode.

Causes of Psychological Cough in Children

Nervous coughing in children is related to an unfavorable psychological climate in the family. Parents’ arguments and conflicts, rudeness towards the child or each other, all reflect on the child’s state. A child’s cough is a consequence of the parents’ behavior.

Specialists’ View

To diagnose neurotic cough, the exact psychological cause must be found. Let’s delve deeper into the theories of popular psychologists-psychosomatists.

Louise Hay

Louise Hay believes it’s a desire to assert oneself, to shout to the world: “Look, I’m here, I exist! Hear me!” Healing affirmation: “I am noticed and highly valued. I am loved.”

Lise Bourbeau

Lise Bourbeau sees it as an attempt to cleanse mental clutter. Characteristics of people with nervous cough:

  • Irritability;
  • Excessive self-criticism;
  • Intolerance, especially towards oneself.

Such a person tends to blame themselves for everything. Even if irritated by something external, they criticize themselves. What to do: During a coughing fit, try to analyze your thoughts. Realize you’re too intolerant and critical of yourself. Allow yourself to be imperfect and start treating yourself as you’d like others to treat you.

Important! This explanation applies to baseless coughs. If the cough is a symptom of asthma, bronchitis, flu, etc., the corresponding psychosomatic explanation should be considered.

Valery Sinelnikov

Valery Sinelnikov gives two explanations:

  • The individual’s inner desire to assert themselves;
  • A way to maintain relationships, the cough teaches to express only good (relevant for those who constantly express dissatisfaction and criticism, condemn people).

Consciously suppressed irritation, unspoken claims, and grievances can also be the cause of psychosomatics.


Zhikarentsev sees the cause as a subconscious desire for attention. The person wants to be heard and noticed. Healing affirmation: “I have enough attention in life.”

Psychosomatic Causes of Cough in Children and Adults, Methods to Combat Cough Syndrome

How to Treat Psychosomatic Cough Treatment can consist of one or two stages:

  1. Medication: Sedatives and drugs to block cough urges.
  2. Psychotherapy: Direct search for causes and development of new behavioral strategies. Important! Before prescribing treatment, psychological and medical diagnostics must be conducted. Medical professionals need to ensure there is no allergy and exclude the presence of foreign bodies in the respiratory tract. Only after this can the psychological cause be sought.

For Children

Treatment of neurological cough in a child:

  1. Psychotherapy in the form of a game: The psychologist should find out what worries and troubles the child. It’s important for the child to express themselves or release their emotions in another form, such as drawing (art therapy).
  2. Family psychotherapy: The child’s psychosomatic cough is related to the parents’ relationship. Parents should learn to solve their problems away from the child, and improve their relationship.
  3. Working with the family and child: It’s important to change the parents’ approach to parenting, adjust the child’s educational program. This work should aim to unite the entire family, not just the parents.

It’s important to constantly support and praise the child, listen to their opinion, and offer choices. Children rarely start conversations themselves. Therefore, it’s necessary to attentively observe the child’s behavior and reactions, unobtrusively start a dialogue, and offer help.

For Adults

Components of treatment for nervous cough in adults:

  1. Development of the communication sphere: It’s important to talk as much as possible with friends and family. This should be real, sincere communication. Allow yourself to express any emotions.
  2. Find a favorite activity: Ideally, it should become your job. If that’s not possible, find a hobby. Everyone should have a pastime that helps distract from worries and brings positive emotions.
  3. Systematic, manageable physical exercise: Mindfulness in exercise, focusing on breathing is important. Sports activities promote the production of happiness and joy hormones, improve brain function, and help distract.
  4. Herbal infusions, calming teas: Can be taken before going to sleep.
  5. Daily self-analysis: Analyze the successes of each day, focus on the positive, and try to eliminate negative thoughts from your mind.

Important! Treatment and prevention methods should be individually tailored. We recommend not self-medicating but consulting a specialist.

Methods to Combat Cough Reflex

Combatting the cough reflex can be aided by body-oriented psychotherapy. It helps eliminate muscle tension in the face and neck. Pay attention to the following areas and muscles:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Chest
  • Trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles

Simultaneously, it’s important to relax the psyche. Warm baths with scented candles, essential oils, and pleasant music, as well as contrast showers, can help. Evening walks and stretching during the workday are beneficial.

Consider signing up for a neck massage or doing it yourself. You can purchase special balls, mittens, pillows, hand massagers. These tools can be used at home, work, or even in the car.

Important! Smoking and poorly ventilated rooms can cause discomfort in the throat. We recommend quitting harmful habits and monitoring air humidity in the room.

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