Are Your Physical Symptoms Actually Hidden Mental & Emotional Issues?
By Yulli Agnes, MD, MBiomed (AAM)
We’ve all been there, whether you developed a pounding headache after a stressful day at work or experiencing lack of energy, lack of self-confidence, depression, and increased anxiety when hit a dead end while working on a project. A more obvious one is the feeling of being shredded inside the chest when an important relationship ended or lost a love one (it’s not called a "broken heart" for nothing).
It's hard to deny the strong connection between the mind and body and we've known about them intuitively for centuries. There’s data to support the belief that mood is a major predictor of health and well-being. It’s been estimated that around 80 percent of visits to primary care physicians are due to symptoms ultimately caused by stress or emotional problems.
Our brain has a characteristic known as neuroplasticity. That’s how it adapts according to our lifestyle, physiology, and environment. We are literally forming and re-forming our brain based on the choices we make and the habits we build on a day-to-day basis.
Grief, anger, worry, fear, guilt, embarrassment, traumatic memories — all are common trigger to our brain’s limbic system and send the stress-response into action. Also, events such as job stress, financial pressure, public speaking, performance evaluations, relationship issues, doctor appointment.
When the stress-response system is in action, it sends out chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol that are supposed to prepare our bodies physically to deal with difficult or dangerous situations. This is a great process if, say, we are being attacked and have to defend ourselves or run away, but in everyday life, it can cause more problems than it solves.
When we suppress any negative emotions – grief, anger, worry, fear, guilt, embarrassment, traumatic memories – the body sense a “threat” and will constantly release cortisol. The action of cortisol is catabolic and affect virtually every cell, organ and body system. Prolonged exposure of cortisol causes tissue breakdowns instead of repair, which may exhibit in a myriad of symptoms depending on each individual:
- Blood sugar dysregulation. Experiences of dizziness, shakiness or brain fog between or following meals; headaches, sleepiness, mood swing if skipping meals; craving for caffeine or sweets at mid-afternoon; waking up & feeling hungry at 2-3 am.
- Depression, anxiety, mood swing, irritable.
- Poor learning & short term memory.
- Poor wound healing & easy bruising.
- Pain syndromes, such as chronic headaches, back pain, muscle & joint pain.
- Immune dysfunction. Experiences of chronic low-grade infections, frequent illness, allergies.
- Liver detoxification dysfunction, with symptoms such as general weakness, fatigue, digestive disturbances (e.g., constipation, nausea, vomiting), allergies & chemical sensitivities, weight loss, jaundice, mental confusion, general itching.
- Low thyroid hormone, with symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, increase sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, thinning hair, puffy face, muscle weakness/ache/tenderness/stiffness, joint pain/swelling/stiffness, high cholesterol, heavy or irregular menstruation, slow heart rate, depression, impaired memory.
- Premenstrual syndrome, with symptoms such as depression, irritability, mood swing, bloating, puffiness, cramping, migraine, poor sleeping, difficult to focus, joint aches.
When hot repressed emotions are bottled up and have nowhere to go, they can burn their owner.
What can we do about this? How can we fix this or prevent this? Research has shown that the magnitude of the response and recovery to these stressors is based on the individual’s perception rather than the stressors themselves.
You can practice techniques that ignite the mind-body connection, giving you the power to trigger positive physiological responses. Any practice that contributes to your senses of compassion, connection, empathy, gratitude, happiness, mindfulness, optimism, resilience, and self-compassion fits into this category of life-enhancing strategies.
The most important thing is to have physical self-awareness, how your body interact with the world around you. Why is the physical symptom showing up? What kind of mental and emotional sensations are you experiencing that trigger the symptoms? Look closer at every aspect of your life – relationship, sexuality, money, work & life purpose, creativity, belief system, spirituality and environment. The answer is different for each person.
So, what physical symptoms do you have, and what is your body trying to tell you?