Friday, 12 March 2010

Psychosomatic Disorder

Bodily ailment or symptom, caused by mental or emotional disturbance, in which psychological stresses adversely affect physiological (somatic) functioning to the point of distress. Psychosomatic disorders may include hypertension, respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal disturbances, migraine and tension headaches, sexual dysfunctions, and dermatitis.

Some of you may have been reading my blog for some time, and perhaps will remember two posts I made on the subject of Depression here and here.  I've battled with depression for quite a long time, but I have learned how to manage it, so that it doesn't take over.

Sometimes, depression will manifest itself in a physical way.  When I was first diagnosed with depression, it was after I thought I had a problem with my heart.   I had all the classic symptoms of a heart problems, and was convinced I was about to die, but after being referred to a cardiologist for the relevant checks, there was nothing wrong with my heart at all.  I had one of those monitors strapped to me for 24 hours, to monitor my heart, and was told to make a note of times when I felt stressed, which caused my heart to beat faster.
In fact the cardiologist said that my stress levels were so high at times, that it was a good job my heart was so strong!   So I was referred to a psychiatrist, and the rest is history.

If I experience some kind of physical illness these days, I always consider that my symptoms may be psychosomatic.  Although it's difficult at times to know whether the physical symptoms are real or not, so it's important to be checked out..if nothing else, it eliminates the fact that it may be a physical problem.  Better to be safe than sorry.

I was diagnosed with IBS (although the Turkish doctors still call it "spastic colon") a couple of years ago after having a colonoscopy.  Most of the time it's fine, but stress and anxiety cause it to flare up.  I occasionally get migraine headaches...mostly when I'm feeling anxious.

The reason I'm writing about this is because it fascinates me.  The way the brain can cause you to feel physical pain or discomfort, when in fact it's really all in the mind. 

I was thinking about it this morning in particular, because Mr Ayak went away for a few days at the beginning of the week, which always leaves me feeling a bit low.  On Wednesday morning when I attempted to get out of bed, I couldn't stand on my right leg.  I had the most excruciating pain in my right hip, and if I put my foot to the floor, it was much worse.  I assumed that it may be connected to my back injury.  Or, as I have arthritis anyway, perhaps age, wear and tear was now affecting my hip joint.

So I limped around the house for two days...took painkillers and used brufen gel..but nothing worked.

Mr Ayak arrived home last night and I limped to the door to greet him.   We sat and chatted for an hour or so and then I got up from the sofa to go to the kitchen, expecting the pain to start up again...but it was gone.  Amazingly there was no pain or discomfort at all...nothing!

Of course it could just be a coincidence that my hip suddenly recovered at the time Mr Ayak arrived, but I can't help thinking that this was just another example of my psychosomatic disorder.

Odd isn't it?


  1. This is a subject I was just mulling over writing about. I think I'll do it anyway, since writing to me is highly therapeutic, however, I also want to respond to your post here in solidarity.

    When I get highly stressed, I can get asthmatic symptoms, my blood pressure will rise (and my carotid artery sticks out, thumping away) and if the stress continues, I get a rash-like series of boils in exactly the same place each time: coming off the scar for the bone graft which was harvested from my posterior iliac crest. And the worst stress I have ever been under caused a heart attack back in 2004.

    My eldest daughter gets a facial rash, again in the same place each time, and the youngest has 'digestive problems' and sleep disturbance.

    As you might imagine, these are stressful times for me and my girls. However, luckily, we all bounce back really quickly when the stress 'goes away' and we return to our happy normal routines. I think that's the key, it doesn't seem to leave any lasting effect for the most part. I like to think (or kid myself?) that we can manage stress, however, I also think we could do a better job of it.

    So, your post reminds me to spend some time today writing about this and also to spend the time both practising 'Zen' AND accomplishing some more concrete and practical objectives to remove this main stress from our lives for good!

    Warm hugs and quiches from Kitty xo

  2. My therory is that virtually every illness / disease is linked to the mind. If I am upbeat, in great form, well rested and free from stress, it does not matter how many people with flu I come in contact with I won't catch it, and I know I won't. And I think it applies to virtually every illness. The spark maybe a virus or such like, but your body will only give in if your defences are down, which can be either by phisical or psychological stress.

    But now tell us, did Mr. A notice the new hair do? I note you've put a pic on now!

  3. We are sensitive people. What can you expect? :)
    Actually, I used to get migraines pretty regularly. I think there is a genetic component to it because my grandmother used have "sick headaches" too. This is not like a headache but much more like some kind of neurological breakdown with, cold extremities, tingling in the lips and tongue, a kind of blindness in my left eye, and all the glories of nausea and "errping." The worst of my problems were solved by realizing that I had an allergy to pecans.(Thank god, it was something I could easily avoid.. not like water or air) Before that doctors would also look at me like I was making it up or exaggerating it and they whispered that psychosomatic word. Once I learned to avoid just that one item, the occurrence was reduced to once a year at most.
    I also believe that, if you think about all the chemicals that we take into our bodies on a daily basis, things that might be fine on their own or in small quantities, but when mixed with a thousand other things, it shouldn't surprise us if we grew another head. You get a floor polish here and sugar substitute there, add a pinch of car exhaust and bit of microwave from a cell phone and viola! you get a pimply rash from outer space. It is like one big high school science experiment except it is done on you and I.
    In any case, Gecmis (not gecmez) olsun.

  4. Good morning Kitty, Heiko and Nomad.

    Thank you so much for your comments on this post. I'm very interested in your opinions on this, which are all quite different but with elements of similarity. It's a fascinating subject and something I think most of us can relate to in one way or another. I remember my late father, when he was struck down by some kind of illness, refused to give in to physical symptoms and just carried on regardless. He just used to say "It's a case of mind over matter"..

    (Heiko..yes Mr A did notice my hair. Please note that I used my integrated camera for this and I'm not good at taking photos at the best of times. Taken at 6.30 this morning when I'd just got out of bed and hadn't even looked in the mirror! But I'm not a vain person and have no problem with anyone seeing me at my worst..haha!)

  5. I'm glad you said that and not me ;-)

  6. Oh and I'm just listening to a piece of Irish music called Vital Mental Medicine. If you like Irish music, download the album from here Maybe that'll help!

  7. Heiko: Haha..I could be offended if I didn't know you ;-)

    Oh I love Irish music...I'll have a look at that...thanks xxx

  8. I recall my grandfather commenting on my mother's problems. She had been in a car accident and then suffered some kind of digestive problem. Doctors looked her over and ran hundreds of tests. Gave her all kinds of medication but nothing seemed to help. When they couldn't find the cause, they said she must be a "hysterical personality type" and the problem was in her mind.
    My grandfather neither agreed or disagreed with that diagnosis but said privately, "I think she has too much free time on her hands. She has too much time to think about her body."
    I thought it was a harsh judgement but it might be true for all of us to some degree.

  9. Nomad. I could well be true for many people. However, that in itself can be an indication of depression..not always of course...but as I've said in my previous posts on depression, sometimes people don't acknowledge depression...either in themselves or others...because of the stigma attached to it.
    Because I have first-hand experience and also worked in the mental health field for years, I strongly believe that it's important to acknowledge and talk about depression. There's not much sympathy or understanding for it can't put a bandage on people often don't accept it as being real.
    Acceptance, acknowledgment and communication are in my opinion the largest part of the cure.

  10. Like you, I have had IBS and been a migraine sufferer for years and tended to put every twinge down to stress (because for the last couple of decades, I have been badly stressed. Now here I am with cancer. I think it is very important to have symptoms checked out like you did (colonoscopy) and not take for granted that the symptoms ARE psychosomatic.
    However, I think that your hip pain probably was a back problem sort of thing but because you got absorbed in something else (husband), it seemed to disappear.Might just be a weak point.
    Good to see your photo.
    Thought this post was fascinating.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  11. You can tell it's raining this morning and I haven't got much to do... Anyway, on the subject of depression, I just read an excellent novel by Patrick Gale called Notes from an Exhibition. The subject is an artist who suffers from depression / bipolar disorder. Highly recommended read!

  12. Hi Maggie. I absolutely agree with you that symptoms should be checked out. It's imperative that physical illnesses are eliminated before making any assumptions.

    I take your point about the hip pain. I haven't discounted it...and if it does recur, then I will get it checked. It just seemed such an odd coincidence.

    Thanks Maggie xxx

  13. Thanks Heiko...another one to add to my list.

    I hope the rain clears up for you. I know how you hate not being able to get outside!

  14. How odd that your hip pain just disapeared in an instant - it does sound like its recovery was prompted by the joy of having Mr Ayak back.

    I love your hair - it really suits you.

  15. FF: It is could still be a coincidence..time will tell.

    Thanks for your comment on my hair..I'm really happy to have a style that looks OK when I've slept on it!

  16. Nice hair Mrs. Ayak! Plant some Valerian and skullcap in your garden, then make a nice tea or tincture from the plant. It will help to relax you, calm your nerves, and is quite possibly healthy to boot.:)

  17. Thankyou Mr H! I will have to google valerian and skullcap...sounds good!

  18. Depression is a serious ailment and it is always sad when people say things like,"Oh, you look down in the dumps!" or "Cheer up!" or still worse, "Quit feeling sorry for yourself." That does nothing but trivialize a matter that should be addressed. I used to have mild depression as a teenager and thankfully, it has faded for the most part.
    I hope you didn't think my post above was making light of this problem. Here's to healthy living and good spirits.
    By the way, snazzy hair color!

  19. "favourite" one is "pull yourself together"...aaaargh!

    No I certainly didn't think you were making light of it, I'm very much enjoying your interesting comments on my blog. I like your honesty and your humour.

    And thanks for the comment on my hair xx

  20. I have so many crazy tales along this line... I totally believe!

  21. Hi why am I not surprised? ;-)

  22. I can see what you are talking about. Mr Fly has a lot of very real problems but I notice that when some outside event stresses him the IBS recurs, and then all sorts of small things start going wrong with his general state of health.

    For the IBS he finds an increase in beans in his diet helpful and once that problem begins to subside, so do the others, though I also think things subside as he decides how to deal with the stress inducing event.

  23. I enjoyed this post cos I do believe that our bodies are aggravated byt stress, depression anxiety and other things can manifest itself. ALthough I think I had a faulty gene somewhere I believe that extreme stress has caused problems with my heart. I too get muscular problems which can disappear as soon as my mind is taken off it by something nice happening, even if it is just a cuddle I think the body sends endorphins to our brains and we relax..... thats my theory anyway lol. Sending hugs to you xx

  24. Fly: I also find beans helpful. One thing I can't seem to cope with is cabbage...and I love it..particularly stuffed cabbage leaves. I sometimes risk it but always regret it afterwards.

    Bomb: Yes I agree. Stress can account for a lot of changes in our bodies I think. Learning how to handle stress is important. I used to use relaxation tapes. A psychologist I used to work with produced some good ones but I don't think they're available anymore. I might search to see if they are still available and post about them.


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