The link between physical illness and psychological stress has been known for some time, but there’s still a great deal more to understand about this phenomenon. The good news is that more and more research is being done on the subject, and the more we recognise what’s happening, the better we’re able to address the underlying causes.
Somatization is the unconscious expression of mental or emotional pain into physical disorders. A key point to stress here is that just because a symptom is psychologically based, it doesn’t make it any less ‘real’ or distressing for the individual affected – that person has no more control over what’s happening to them than someone whose illness is purely physical. This type of suffering requires just as much care and attention as we’d give to someone whose pains are purely physical. In fact, it’s entirely possible that not getting sufficient care and attention in the first place was what led to their bodily symptoms.
This BBC article is the story of one doctor’s personal discovery of somatization and her attempts to further understand and promote awareness of what is turning out to be a very widespread problem.