Could it be that our minds and bodies are linked and therefore, our psychological tensions manifest as physical pains and aches? Turns out that that is what happens. A study claims that up to 70% of the cases that general physicians see in their practice have a major component of stress-induced pain.
There is also an actual psychiatric disorder called Somatoform disorder, where the chief concern is localized or spread body pains and aches without any apparent physical or biological cause. The treatment can be difficult at times, because when the person afflicted finally comes to a mental health professional, he has gone through rounds of the medical system and his resistance to doctors and professionals maybe high.
Why does this disorder develop? There is some research which indicates that children learn when growing up that the sick sibling gets more attention and is given relaxation in terms of work or school. If a family does not spend quality time together, the only way for a child to have the attention of the parent that he craves is by being sick. This also saves the arduous work and school homework etc. Therefore, the child grows up learning to like the sick role.
Another explanation is that of unawareness. In some cultures and families, psychological problems and issues are not considered as important or serious and are brushed away, saying that it is only the weak who have them. In such places, people are highly unaware of the psychological tensions generated by their life situations. Therefore, their psychological health does not get any attention at all. Thus, when this becomes too much for their mind, then it manifests the trouble in terms of bodily pain, so that the person takes some time off to rest, ponders and realizes something is wrong and tries to fix it.
Regardless of whether the problem is physical or psychological, humans often heal when they have love, care and support. Research also shows that the prognosis for any disease is much better if the person has sources of joy and at least one fulfilling and connected relationship.
Therefore, when we know this, it fits why the mind would transfer psychological tensions to physical pain. It makes sure that we get the love, support, care and rest we need. However, this becomes maladaptive when this continuous and when one takes no effort to resolve the psychological causes of pain and physical discomfort.
In counseling and therapy, the therapist goes to these causes and slowly brings awareness to the person. The therapist also gives the client new coping skills, because their old coping skills are not good enough to address the psychological tension they face. Research shows that with an efficient therapist, one can see great improvement for somatoform disorder in 10 – 12 sessions.