Psychosomatic disorders are conditions where mental stresses and problems create or contribute to physical symptoms that are not associated with any particular physiological disease. While almost any physical symptom can be psychosomatic in nature, the most common psychosomatic disorders are pain disorder, hypochondriasis, somatization disorder, and conversion disorder. Additionally, mental stresses can cause or worsen physical symptoms, such as migraines, tension headaches, sexual dysfunction, hypertension, and gastrointestinal problems.
One of the most common psychosomatic disorders is pain disorder or psychogenic pain, which refers to physical pain anywhere in the body felt as a result of the connection between the body and mind. People who are under a great deal of psychological stress or who suffer from a temporary or chronic psychological problem may experience pain with no apparent physical cause. The pain is often described as severe or unbearable. In some cases, chronic pain that does have a physical cause may be worsened by emotional stress caused by the patient's anticipation of the pain.
Hypochondriasis is another relatively common psychosomatic disorder that typically affects people during early adulthood. Patients who suffer from hypochondriasis believe that they have a severe physical ailment or live in fear of severe physical problems. For example, a person with hypochondriasis may believe he has stomach cancer simply from feeling bloated or hearing his stomach rumble. Treatment for the disorder usually involves cognitive-behavioral therapy and sometimes prescription antidepressants.
People who are going through an emotionally difficult time or who suffer from a mental disorder or problem, such as anxiety or depression, may experience physical symptoms in conjunction with emotional and mental symptoms. Common psychosomatic complaints include nausea, cramping, diarrhea, headaches, erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, and chest pains. Patients who experience these symptoms on a chronic basis over several years are often diagnosed with somatization disorder. Counseling and treatment of underlying mental conditions can help reduce the physical symptoms.
Conversion disorder is characterized by neurological symptoms that appear following a traumatic or stressful event and have no physical cause. The condition may cause psychosomatic paralysis of a limb, loss of one of the senses, or seizures. Patients diagnosed with this disorder usually have only brief episodes during which they suffer from the symptoms, though some do have ongoing problems.
Patients who experience ongoing symptoms should always seek medical or psychiatric treatment to rule out any potentially dangerous physical ailments. Psychological stress can exacerbate some physical problems, such as high blood pressure, eczema, and ulcers. People who complain of physical symptoms from psychosomatic disorders are usually not faking or trying to get attention, and are experiencing real pain or other symptoms that can be treated with a proper diagnosis and care. Even if the symptoms are truly psychosomatic, a doctor or mental health care professional can recommend treatment to help alleviate the physical symptoms and minimize the mental and emotional stresses that contribute to the problem.