Psychosomatic illnesses (3 main causes)

Psychosomatic illnesses (psyche = mind, soma = body) are those illnesses that have no known biological or physical cause and the symptoms are caused or aggravated by psychological factors.

In other words, psychological imbalances or issues that a person may be experiencing in their life are manifested as physical, biological illnesses!

Despite their uncanny nature, psychosomatic illnesses are not uncommon. Examples of psychosomatic illnesses include peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach disorders, migraines and back pain. Even blindness and paralysis have been reported to be psychosomatic in some cases.

In short, it is possible to think yourself into an illness. Since our subconscious mind controls our bodily functions, it makes sense to claim that the underlying causes of psychosomatic illnesses are subconscious psychological mechanisms that operate outside the level of awareness.

Here are the three most common causes of psychosomatic illnesses:

1) Negative emotions

Negative emotions are just your mind’s way of warning you that something in your life isn’t going well, that something needs to be dealt with and fixed. If you ignore these emotions, your mind intensifies them so that you’re forced to acknowledge them and take the necessary actions.

If you ignore them still, then they can manifest as psychosomatic illnesses. The mind has now been pushed to the limit and there was no other way for it to make you acknowledge that something’s wrong other than making you fall ill.

Illness allows you to take a break from whatever it is that’s going on in your life, which, in turn, gives you a chance to reassess your life, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of you making the important decisions that your subconscious mind wants you to make.

Prolonged anger, resentment, jealousy, hatred, shame, guilt, and depression when unexpressed or not dealt with can lead to psychosomatic illness.

psychosomatic illnesses cartoon

2) Subconscious problem-solving

One of the most important functions of the subconscious mind is to maintain our well-being. If it perceives anything as a threat to our well-being, it comes up with neat strategies to deal with these issues outside of our awareness and without our consent.

For example, if a person’s work conditions were extremely stressful and it didn’t seem like he was going to get any respite any sooner, then his subconscious may kick in and make him fall ill.

When he’s ill he’s housebound and therefore is no longer pummelling his ‘psyche’ and ‘soma’ with the work-related stress.

Children may get sick to avoid going to school. I’m not talking about faking an illness deliberately but really falling ill. It may be that they’re being bullied in school or something and that’s why their subconscious made them fall ill so that they’re guarded against the psychological torture of bullying.

Say an old, widowed woman lives with her only son who takes great care of her. Suppose there’s an emergency in the country and the son is called in to join the army. At this point, the old lady might fall ill, psychosomatically.

Since she has no one to take care of her in case her son leaves, her subconscious makes her fall ill so that the son will stay and continue to take care of her. Also, by falling ill she ensures the safety of her son by keeping him away from a potentially life-threatening situation.

3) Suggestion

This one’s even more bizarre. If you receive a suggestion (information) from an authority figure whom you trust, you tend to accept it on a subconscious level.

If, for example, a doctor you totally trust diagnoses you with cancer and tells you that you have six months to live, there’s every chance that you’ll die after six months, even if it was a misdiagnosis!

This actually happened to one guy who was diagnosed with advanced stages of fatal cancer. He was told that he had a few months to live. He died after a few months but when they performed the autopsy, there was no sign of any malignant tumour.

Another way by which the subconscious mind gets programmed is repetition. This means that if you repeatedly say, “My boss gives me a headache” or “He’s such a pain in the neck” then the mere, repeated use of these words may actually give you a headache or a neck pain!

As one wise man wrote in a book that never got written, “Choose your words carefully!”

Final thoughts

When all the possible medical causes of an illness have been ruled out, attention must be given to the possible psychological causes. People often fall ill when they’re going through a bad phase and if they’re already suffering from an illness, it tends to worsen during such times. 

Understanding what the subconscious mind wants is the first step towards recovering from a psychosomatic illness.

People tend to get defensive and angry when their doctor or physician mentions to them the possibility of a psychosomatic illness. They shout and say things like, “Are you saying I did this to myself? You think I’m crazy?”

Think about it, if they were 100% sure that they didn’t do it to themselves, why would they get defensive in the first place?

On a subconscious level, they know they’ve done it to themselves and all the anger and shouting is just the subconscious mind’s way of defending its bizarre strategies.