Psychosomatic Disorders

The term psychosomatic was introduced in the 19th century, marking the development of psychosomatics as an independent direction in psychology. It lies at the intersection of medicine and psychology, with ongoing analysis of the connection between the psyche (soul) and soma (body). Psychosomatic medicine continues to evolve, seeking new explanations and treatment methods for psychosomatic diseases.

What are Psychosomatic Diseases

Psychosomatic disorders manifest as somatic but develop against a backdrop of psychogenic factors. They belong to the realm of mental disorders but manifest as physical ailments. Medication alone provides temporary relief but without psychological correction, diseases will recur.

Classification of Psychosomatic Disorders

Commonly accepted classification includes:

  1. Conversion Disorders: Internal conflict finds a somatic outlet, with functional and structural organ abnormalities. Diseases serve to resolve social issues, e.g., eye diseases allow avoiding unwelcome sights.
  2. Functional Syndromes (Somatization Disorder): Organ and system structures remain unchanged, but functional disturbances occur. Symptoms are evident, but medical diagnostics find no pathology.
  3. Psychosomatoses (Somatopsychic Disorders): Real diseases (organic and functional disturbances) caused by stress.

The so-called “Chicago Seven” are considered psychosomatoses:

  • Bronchial asthma;
  • Ulcerative colitis;
  • Hypertension;
  • Hyperthyroidism;
  • Neurodermatitis;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Stomach and duodenal ulcers.

Later, ischemia, diabetes, and obesity were added. This list is constantly expanding, with many psychologists arguing all diseases can be psychosomatic.

Differences Between Psychosomatic and Regular Diseases

Psychosomatic disorders differ in that they arise and intensify after overstrain (intellectual, emotional, physical), with possible delayed reactions. For instance, childhood trauma may manifest psychosomatically in adulthood. Symptoms can also arise from both negative experiences and pleasant anticipations or successes.

Important! Psychosomatic diseases depend on a person’s stress resilience and response to stress.

Who is at Risk

Those who internalize emotions are at risk. Other character traits that make individuals vulnerable:

  • Low self-esteem;
  • Complexes;
  • Melancholy;
  • Mental and emotional imbalance. Common among those with psychosomatic illnesses is pessimism, self-dislike, inability to withstand stress, and overcoming difficulties.

Important! Children, adolescents, and the elderly form a separate risk group due to weaker psyches.

Symptoms of Psychosomatic Disorders

Manifestations vary, often presenting as pain of various types and locations, with no medical diagnosis for the cause.

Manifestations of Psychosomatics

Besides pain, other somatic manifestations include:

  • Heart rhythm changes;
  • Blood pressure fluctuations;
  • Sweating;
  • Body temperature changes;
  • Nausea;
  • Headache;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Limb heaviness;
  • Bowel disorders;
  • Weakness;
  • Reduced performance;
  • Decreased libido;
  • Cough;
  • Runny nose.

Functional disturbances in conversion disorders include:

  • Respiratory spasms;
  • Paralysis;
  • Loss of tactile sensitivity;
  • Muteness;
  • Deafness;
  • Blindness.

Interesting Fact! Women are more prone to conversion disorders.

Psychosomatics as a Protest of the Body

Symptoms intensify after stress, increased loads, emotional overstrain. Hence, psychosomatics is a body’s protest, with the soul indicating dissatisfaction with lifestyle, thoughts, and actions.

Psychosomatic Pathologies in Children and Adolescents

Children and adolescents develop pre-neurotic, vegetodystonic, and somatic disorders. Psychosomatic disorders in children include:

  • Tics;
  • Enuresis (bedwetting);
  • Insomnia;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Rapid heartbeat;
  • Thirst;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Itching and rashes;
  • Reduced immunity and frequent colds on this background.

Causes of psychosomatic development disorders in children:

  • Family conflicts, school, kindergarten, relationships with peers;
  • Suppression by parents;
  • Violence and cruelty in the family.

The health of children and adolescents largely depends on the psychological climate in the family, the relationship between parents and with the child. In children, the disease can be both a protective reaction and an attempt to unite parents.

Causes of Psychosomatic Disorders

A physiological vulnerability of a certain organ (each person has their own vulnerabilities) serves as a predisposition for psychosomatic disorder – an internal factor. External factors include individual-psychological characteristics, lifestyle specifics, relationships with others, and personal experiences (both positive and negative).

Some causes of psychosomatics:

  • Internal conflict between possibilities and desires, needs and duties;
  • Psychological traumas, negative personal experiences (often childhood memories);
  • Benefits from illness (disease allows rest or satisfies the need for love, care, etc.);
  • Suggestion and self-suggestion;
  • Character traits: insecurity, introversion, immaturity, dependence on others’ opinions;
  • Identification with an authoritative person (imitating their illness);
  • The need for punishment due to feelings of guilt, shame, inferiority complex, self-hatred;
  • Alexithymia.

Interesting! Contemporary Russian psychotherapist A.B. Smulevich analyzes the tendency for psychosomatics in terms of character accentuations and personality types. For example, people with histrionic and asthenic accentuations are at risk. More on this can be found in his book “Psychosomatic Disorders.”

Why We Get Sick Due to Stress

How are stress and psychosomatic disorders connected? Stress is a period of adaptation to new conditions. To cope with danger, the body uses animalistic reactions: accumulating energy for defense (attack or flee). During stress, norepinephrine, adrenaline, and cortisol are produced. They create muscle tension (legs, back, stomach, arms) awaiting release.

Intellectual activity and cognitive abilities also increase. However, the longer physical and psychological discharge is delayed, the more hormonal balance is disturbed. Gradually, stress hormones take over, and systems long operating at their limit wear out. General immunity weakens, creating a favorable environment for diseases.

Interesting! During stress, systems responsible for survival are activated. Less critical systems, like the integumentary (hair, skin, nails) and reproductive systems, are deactivated. This leads to problems with hair and skin, and diseases of the reproductive sphere.

Groups of Psychosomatic Diseases

Psychosomatic diseases can be grouped as follows (types of psychosomatic disorders):

  • Respiratory system diseases;
  • Cardiovascular diseases;
  • Eating disorders;
  • Gastrointestinal diseases;
  • Endocrine system diseases;
  • Skin diseases;
  • Female diseases;
  • Sexual disorders;
  • Male diseases;
  • Oncology;
  • Infections;
  • Psychovegetative disorders;
  • Musculoskeletal diseases;
  • Depression and other mental disorders.


Diagnosing takes considerable time, mainly because many patients only visit a psychotherapist after years of consulting various somatic specialists. However, this doesn’t mean medical diagnostics should be skipped. It’s essential to undergo a full medical examination and consult a psychologist.

Diagnostic tools used by psychotherapists:

  • Conversation. Essential for collecting anamnesis, identifying stress factors, and understanding the client’s life specifics.
  • Tests and questionnaires. Necessary for differential diagnosis and determining personality traits and psycho-emotional states.
  • Projective tests. Allow insights into the client’s subconscious.

Interesting! Between 30 to 50% of psychosomatic diseases remain undetected. Patients manage symptoms and maintain a relatively normal life level through medication.

Prognosis and Prevention

The earlier the disease is diagnosed and treatment for psychosomatic illness begins, the better the prognosis. Diseases are treatable in their early stages. Functional disorders without organic damage have the most favorable prognosis. Anatomical-structural changes may require prolonged medication for psychosomatic disorders.

For the prevention of psychosomatic diseases, it’s crucial to increase stress resilience, learn conflict resolution, and express all emotions, including negative ones.

Factors Influencing Disease Development

Factors contributing to disease development include:

  • Suppressed emotions and needs;
  • Unexpressed opinions and feelings;
  • Obsessive negative thoughts.

All these create tension that accumulates until it reaches a peak and manifests as somatic symptoms.


Without medication and psychotherapy, psychosomatic disorders progress similarly to their somatic counterparts. Structural disturbances become chronic diseases. Constant medication use, frequent pain, and other symptoms significantly reduce the patient’s quality of life. They become dependent on others for care and assistance. Social, occupational, and physical activities noticeably decrease. Some diseases may lead to disability.

Treatment of Psychosomatic Disorders

Complete healing is only possible after addressing the psychological cause: trauma, external conflict, or internal contradiction. Psychotherapy methods for psychosomatic illnesses are selected individually, based on the client’s unique characteristics.

The general treatment program can be outlined as follows:

  1. Group and individual psychotherapy. Art therapy, gestalt therapy, body-oriented therapy, hypnosis, NLP, psychoanalysis, and cognitive-behavioral therapy are effective. This stage involves bringing subconscious issues to light and restoring harmony between mind and body.
  2. Medication. Necessary for symptom relief and physiological disturbances. Serious psychological disorders may require antidepressants, tranquilizers, sedatives, etc.
  3. Rehabilitation. This involves changing lifestyle, family support, and close relationships.

Important! Treatment must be comprehensive. The patient’s own work, especially after therapy, is crucial. Lifelong self-improvement, preventive measures, and maintaining results are necessary.

Who to Consult for Psychosomatic Diseases

In Russia, there is no official specialty as a psychosomatist. Psychosomatic medicine is poorly developed as an independent field. Thus, for psychosomatic issues, one can consult a clinical (medical) psychologist, psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

For those inclined towards alternative medicine, reading books by famous psychological healers like Louise Hay and Lise Bourbeau is an option. Alternatively, one can consult practicing specialists like V. Sinelnikov.

Can a Well-Tuned Spiritual Life Help Overcome Psychosomatics?

Yes, life reassessment undoubtedly helps in combating the illness. Nothing is better for health than personal development and self-improvement. It’s crucial to find love within oneself and believe in oneself. But also, believe in the Universe’s laws. Understand that the Universe will help you if you follow your path, i.e., your abilities, desires, and opportunities.

If you fall ill, consider it a lesson, a hint on what needs to be changed in life. Disease and cause tables from authoritative psychosomatists (discussed in the article below) can assist in this.

How to Learn to Manage Your Emotions

Every life event is inherently neutral. It depends on our perception. We assign positive or negative significance to it. To react calmly to everything and turn difficulties into opportunities, one must learn to manage emotions.

We introduce you to the technique of personal growth trainer and psychologist Itzhak. He suggests influencing emotions through three levers:

  1. Focus on joyful events. When feeling pessimistic, remember or imagine something pleasant in detail. This method helps control mood and eliminate negative thoughts.
  2. Adopt a ‘joyful pose.’ A posture corresponding to joy: straight back, broad smile, and then move energetically. Body and mind are interconnected. You can induce good mood in the brain and lightness in the body.
  3. Maintaining a cheerful gait and posture, say these phrases cheerfully: “I’m a hero,” “Everything is fine,” “I’m a happy person. I’m lucky,” “I’m in a great mood, and it’s only getting better.”

Additionally, observe your emotions. Track the connection between specific emotions and situations. Monitor bodily reactions to each emotion. Eventually, you’ll identify vulnerabilities and stressors, the connection between soul and body. Itzhak’s method teaches mindfulness. You can choose your emotional response to any event. You decide what to take from the world.

Causes of Psychosomatic Illnesses

Metaphysiology, the causes, and treatment of psychosomatic diseases have been structured by psychologists and are presented in the form of tables. The tables by V. Sinelnikov and Louise Hay are particularly popular.

Complete Table by Sinelnikov

Valery Sinelnikov is a domestic physician and psychologist, a homeopath, and an author of books on healing the soul and body. We invite you to acquaint yourself with his disease table.

Somatoform DisordersPsychological Cause of Illness
HeadacheHypocrisy, contradiction of thoughts and feelings.
Runny NoseSuppressed emotions, tears, sadness.
CystitisAnger and irritability towards men or a sexual partner.
CoughSubconscious desire to attract attention, assert oneself, express one's opinion.
DiarrheaFear, anxiety, need for security. Often occurs before important events, like an exam.
ConstipationInability to let go of a painful past, unloved job, or unhealthy relationships. Greediness and stinginess with money.
TonsillitisSuppressed anger seeking to emerge. Inability to stand up for oneself, ask for help, express oneself and feelings.
HerpesBiased attitude towards people, unexpressed accusations and barbs.
Uterine BleedingResentment, anger, joy leaking from life.
Nausea, VomitingInability to accept and digest something, subconscious fears.
Hemorrhoids, FissuresReluctant letting go of the old and unnecessary. Anger, fear, pain of loss.
ThrushInsecurity, fear of losing attractiveness, fear of imperfection, aggression towards partner.
AllergiesSuppressed emotions and lack of self-control.
Kidney DiseasesAnger, bitterness, resentment, hatred, judgment, criticism, shame, fear of failure.
GallbladderAccumulated anger, rage, irritability.

This is not an exhaustive list of diseases presented in Sinelnikov’s table. You can explore the complete table in our article “Psychosomatics of Diseases, Psychological Causes of Diseases” and in the author’s book “Love Your Illness”.

Psychosomatics of Diseases by Louise Hay

Louise Hay was one of the first to engage in a detailed study and structuring of psychosomatic diseases. She identifies negative thinking and self-dislike as the main causes of any illness. To combat ailments, she suggests using affirmations. We invite you to explore Louise Hay’s alphabetical table.

IllnessPsychological CauseAffirmation
AmenorrheaDenial of femininityI am proud to be a woman.
ApathyFear, deep feeling of oppressionI am safe. I allow myself to express feelings.
AsthmaSuppressed tears, fatigueI am responsible for my future. I am free.
InsomniaGuilt, doubtsI do everything right. I am grateful for each day.
MyopiaFear of the futureLife is safe. Everything is going its course.
WartsRejection of appearanceI love and accept myself, I am beautiful.
GastritisFeeling of helplessnessI am safe. I believe in myself and my strength.
HyperthyroidismAnger at oneself for not being able to realize as a personI value and love myself. I am a worthy person.
HeadacheSelf-rejection, criticism, and demandingnessI am safe, I value and accept myself.
DiabetesDeep dissatisfaction with lifeI allow myself to enjoy life.
ColicExcessive demands on others, dissatisfaction with themI am calm and at peace.
BleedingLoss of joy from lifeI allow myself to enjoy life. My life is full of joy.
CallusesStuck in the past, fears related to the pastI let go of the past, open up to the new, and joyfully move forward.
ObesityNeed for love and protection, aggressionI love and accept myself. I am safe.
TumorsRegret, resentmentI let go of the past and joyfully move into the future.
Liver (diseases)Self-deception, self-justification, accumulated negativityI am open to love and development.
Kidneys (stones)Old negativityI happily get rid of negativity.
ColdFatigue, resentmentI am in harmony with myself, my life is full of joy.
CancerHatred, resentment, old woundsI let go of the past and step into a new happy life.
Heart attackJoyless existenceI radiate and receive love.
Spastic colitisFear of letting go of something, doubtsEverything is going its course. Life has prepared only good for me.
CrampsDesire to hold onto something, to grasp somethingI am at peace and in harmony with myself, I am calm.

The full table can be found in our article “Mental Causes of Various Diseases” and in the author’s book “Heal Yourself.”

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