The physical symptom from a psychological perspective
“Body and psyche must not be separated. Yet many doctors ignore it, precisely for this reason so many diseases escape them: because they do not see everything “- Plato
Man is perceived as a relational and corporeal being; he experiences different mental states but dependent on his links with the most significant people . The communication tool man uses is his body; it is intended as a communication tool with the external environment, through verbal (analog) and non-verbal (digital) language. These two languages are mixed up to produce a combination of words and gestures.
Our body acts in resonance with the affective states and mood, capturing and processing the experiences that are generated in relationships. Taking care of your body is equivalent to maintaining a good relationship with yourself, with others and with things. Knowing how to perceive and recognize the signals of one’s body as indicators of expression of emotions helps us to know how to express and manage them adequately.
Knowing the limits of one’s body allows us to express ourselves in the best possible way with the external environment (allowing us to act rather than suffer external events). This means considering emotions, body and relationships connected.
The importance of the psyche in various medical disciplines
The ancient Chinese and Ayurvetic medicines believe that “before matter there is energy”; in other words, the two disciplines affirm that energy is born before matter. This concept has also been recognized by Western allopathic medical thought. We are made of energy as well as matter and the combination of these two instances produces the so-called energetic reflexological correspondences; that we can find at the level of the tongue, iris, foot, ear, hand etc.
When an emotional block occurs or an erroneous perception of external reality, there is a block at the level of the energetic reflexological correspondences. For Indian Ayurveda medicine, the disease has a dynamic and relational origin; the remedies consist of: yoga, transcendental meditation, correct nutrition, with the aim of improving and balancing the psychosomatic condition of the individual .
Traditional Chinese medicine believes that the cure consists in restoring the oscillatory balance between two opposing and inseparable vital forces that support the organism (Yin-Yang). The imbalance appears, initially, on the surface (with the presence of mucus, phlegm, fever, skin manifestations) and, subsequently in depth, becoming chronic, if not adequately treated.
Pnei and Epigenetics
There are disciplines such as PNEI (psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology) and Epigenetics , which have taken up and scientifically analyzed the contributions coming from the disciplines that have been exposed previously.
In particular, the first focuses on the constant search for balance starting from the effects that the psyche has on the endocrine and immune system (and vice versa); instead, the second focuses on how environmental events can contribute to altering gene expression , without, however, modifying the DNA.
Taking into consideration the psychic, physical, social and spiritual level is fundamental for the well-being of the subject.
The role of psychology
The main objective of psychology is to help the individual manage conflicts with his own self and process traumatic events and in parallel, the primary objective of osteopathy is based on restoring the autonomic balance.
It is the individual who decides and becomes responsible for his own well-being, as Hippocrates said “Before seeking the healing of someone, ask yourself if he is willing to give up the things that made him sick”.
The symptom: an intertwining between Osteopathy and Psychology
“The doctor’s goal must be to find health. Everyone is capable of finding the disease ”. -Andrew Taylor Still.
From a psychological point of view, the symptom could be traced back to a multiplicity of factors:
- The way in which the individual perceives himself;
- L influences from the external environment;
- The way that the individual has of reading external influences.
- The symptom takes on a particular emotional language, which if properly interpreted can guide the professional to treat the subject.
Scientific studies have shown that the symptom has several characteristics:
- The symptom has relational and energetic components: that is, they must be perceived as emerging signs of which the underlying messages can be analyzed, and as the organism or system tries to restore its own organization and internal balance. There may be a marked connection between symptoms and traumatic experiences;
- Symptoms are repositories and bearers of messages inherent to present problems of the subject’s interpersonal relationships: they perform a double function; on the one hand a homeostatic function (ie it has the task of restoring the balance of the subject) on the other hand an evolutionary function (a means to fulfill a need for change). In both cases it is problematic.
- It has an activating power: as it allows the subject to receive the necessary care from the people around him.
- The symptom changes according to the events and the period that the individual is experiencing;
- Treatability: through the analysis and interpretation of the symptom it is possible to reach a
cure, therapy and finally a possible cure.
Also in the holistic and osteopathic idea the interpretation of the symptom becomes important, so that the somatic dysfunction can be identified; understood as an expression of the alteration of the state of health caused by stressful events (external or internal) to the organism, such as trauma and / or pathologies.
They usually occur mainly on the musculoskeletal system, with pain or reduced mobility. The osteopath, through specific techniques, stimulates the restoration of physiological mobility at the level of the various systems (circulatory, respiratory, fascial, nervous, musculoskeletal), which by means of a synergistic and coordinated activity, regulate the physiological functioning of the body.
The work that the psychotherapist and the osteopath can carry out in synergy is aimed at:
– Anxiety and depressive symptoms that are expressed through somatic and visceral reactions, including: sleep disorders, thoracic-abdominal problems (in particular they may include cardiac dysfunctions , respiratory, digestive), urogenital dysfunction (with the consequent sexual disorders, including: dysmenorrhea, pains during childbirth),
blood and hormonal imbalance (hypertension, alterations in blood sugar and cholesterol).
– Psychophysical trauma, injuries and joint pain, musculoskeletal pain (back pain, headache, neck pain, knee pain), skin manifestations (including: alopecia, psoriasis, dermatitis,
– Problems related to surgery.
Illness-health: an oxymoron or an (almost) perfect combination?
The symptom reflects the emotional trauma and also contains healing within it (understood as a path of inner growth).
According to Barbieri and Sacchi (2018), it is important to learn to read the disease and understand it as a survival reaction to events that can be emotionally unmanageable for the subject. Therefore, it must not be understood as an enemy to be fought, but as a message (both psychic and somatic) of problems that have been denied or ignored by the individual himself. Problems arise as the synthesis of the interaction between different factors (psychological, environmental, relational, organic …). Among the psychological factors there are the “defenses” adopted by the subject that are in an unconscious dimension; they are caused by personal events that have been little analyzed and processed.
The condition of illness is the starting point for making the health condition happen (which is defined as a state of normal well-being as it is perceived as a condition of adaptation following events that have remained as “frozen” in the time.
For further information: Are mind and body connected to each other?
Treating the causes of malaise
” Treating the causes ” means discovering the inherent meaning of the factors that produced the condition of malaise. Using the resources and the active involvement of the patient it is possible to understand and interpret the origin of his symptoms.
In the case of somatic symptoms, without organic causes , to identify the link between organ and emotion; as somatization is understood as a messenger and repository of traumatic events that have not been resolved at all, which must be brought back to the conscience of the subject.
The healing energies are unlocked if the value and meaning that has been attributed to the event by the person is changed. From these last statements it is possible to understand the existence of a link between thought and illness. Thought affects the physiological processes and frequencies of the body.
In conclusion, the work of professionals should focus on “healing the cause”, starting with those thoughts and defenses of the unconscious that have long been ignored or denied, but which cause psychosomatic discomfort.