When emotions hurt

If you are experiencing physical pain that seems to have no physical cause, it's time to consider an emotional one.

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  • Published in Vida sana by Denhi Chaney on September 30, 2013

  • Translated and adapted by Anders Peterson from the original article “Dolores corporales que pueden tener una raíz emocional” by Denhi Chaney

  • Our body is wonderful — almost magical. But, above all, our body is wise. Most of the time our body knows how to take care of itself better than we do not only physically, but also emotionally. Just like our physical condition affects our emotional health our emotions have a great impact on our physical health — we cannot separate them.

  • Stress can manifest itself with migraines, headaches, gastritis, colitis and arthritis, among other physical problems. This does not mean that our body is not functioning well, rather it is quite the opposite. When we don’t efficiently deal with our emotions, our body makes the effort to repair itself and sometimes this happens physically.

  • This process is called somatism, which includes physical pains that have an emotional origin and not a physical one. It is important to understand that this diagnosis is only used after medical visits and tests have proven there is no physical cause. It's important to have medical tests beforehand in order to eliminate any doubt as to the origins of the pain before you start dealing with the emotional aspect.

  • For example, when I was a young girl, my family moved to Brazil. I cannot remember all the details, but I do remember that the adjustment was very difficult for me. Shortly after, I started having migraines. I underwent several studies and the doctors could not find an explanation for my parents. After a while, the migraines disappeared and we noticed that I would have them whenever I felt stress. This still happens today.

  • After consulting a doctor, if you continue suffering physical pain, the following suggestions will be beneficial for you:

  • 1. Find out how emotions and pain are related

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  • Start by paying attention to the time when the pain appears and how it is related to something that is going on around you. For example, if you have a stomach-ache after feeling distressed or angry, take time to realize that this may not be coincidental. Perhaps this is due to the fact that you probably haven’t dealt with such emotions in an appropriate manner. As a result, your body tries to deal with it. It is important to identify which emotions provoke a physical reaction.

  • 2. Learn how to deal with your emotions

  • After having identified the emotions you have tried to ignore, it is important to avoid running away from them. You must face them and get used to feeling them. When you perceive that you are feeling an unpleasant emotion, look for a quiet place, sit down and take a deep breath. Remember that you are not going to feel this emotion forever. This is part of being human. Additionally, your emotions can help you learn more about yourself.

  • 3. If you have had a traumatic experience, seek professional help

  • When a person has had a severe traumatic experience, somatism is very common. It is not abnormal to feel physical pain all over your body. In these cases, it will not be enough for you to deal with emotions. You must seek professional help. Only you know the type of trauma you have experienced and if you really need this type of assistance. I recommend that you be honest and seek for the proper help because the emotional trauma and physical pain will not disappear alone.

  • Physical pain that has emotional origin should not be taken lightly. Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. Remember that both are closely related. Take your time to learn how to manage your emotions and never give up — both your emotional and physical health will improve for it.

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Denhi Chaney has a master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Denhi is also a wife and mother of a child.

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