Depression Can Be a Real Pain!

Depression and Psychosomatic Illness

Stressed man with headache at desk
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/MNPhotoStudios/Blend Images/Getty Images

Any illness that has physical symptoms, but has the mind and emotions as its origin is called a psychosomatic illness. A psychosomatic illness originates with emotional stress or damaging thought patterns, and progresses with physical symptoms, usually when a person's immune system is compromised due to stress. A common misconception is that a psychosomatic condition is imaginary, or "all in someone's mind".

Actually, the physical symptoms of psychosomatic conditions are real, and should be treated quickly, as with any other illness.

The Language of Psychosomatic Depression

Stress and depression can literally be expressed as pain and illness. As an example, compare your body to a pressure cooker. If it's allowed to vent its steam, it will sit there and happily cook along. If it's not allowed to vent its steam, the pressure will build up and up until the lid blows off! People are no different. And, like the pressure cooker we "flip our lids" by becoming depressed.

Now, let's say you have a cooker under pressure, but you're applying pressure to hold that lid on (the human equivalent would be holding in your emotions). What will happen? Eventually, the vessel will break at its weakest point. The same goes for people. If one of your body systems is weakened, this is where a stress-related illness is most likely to develop.

If your weakest point physically is your neck, you'll develop neck pains. Or back pain. Or ulcers. Or frequent colds and flu. You get the picture.

Physical Pains, Mental Cause

Although you may be told that it's "all in your head," psychosomatic illnesses are not imaginary. The aches and pains are very real, but because your doctor is looking for a physical cause, they may be tricky to diagnose and treat.

The key is to look for a source of stress in the person's life that the person is not coping with. By treating the underlying stress and depression, it may be possible to heal the physical problems as well.

Recognize When You're Stressed

The first step is learning to recognize when you are under extreme stress. One way is by taking a Life Stress Test. This simple test rates various life events on a point scale. If you score high, then you are at high risk for developing stress-related illness. Another simple test to determine if you're feeling stressed: take both your hands and touch your neck. If your hands feel significantly colder than your neck, you are stressed. If they are warm, you are relaxed. Other signs of stress include:

  • Sweaty palms
  • Tense muscles
  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Rapid heart beat.

Learn to recognize the signs of stress unique to you.

Learning Coping Mechanisms

Once you know how to recognize when you are stressed, the next step is to learn coping mechanisms. One very important way to cope: DON'T HOLD IN YOUR FEELINGS!

Like the pressure cooker, the pressure will find a way out. You can be like the pressure cooker that is venting steam in a controlled way or you can let the stress find your weakest point to come exploding out. The controlled way is safer and healthier for you.

Controlled ways you can cope include:

  • Talking to someone you trust
  • Joining a support group
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Taking some leisure time for yourself
  • Taking a break from the situation you're in
  • Herbs like Kava Kava or Valerian to help you relax
  • Taking care of your health by eating right, exercising and not smoking
  • Being honest with those around you (maintaining a lie is very energy consuming)
  • Letting go of old grudges
  • Doing something nice for others (if you're not accustomed to doing this) or taking some time just for you (if you are always sacrificing for everyone else).

The list is endless. Just vent that steam!

Read More: The 10 Best Self Care Strategies for Stress Reduction

Be Willing to Let Go

The third and final component: willingness. That's right, willingness. You have to be willing to let go of your expectations about what you must do. You have to be willing to let go of old guilts and shoulds that are guiding your behavior. You have to allow yourself to just be human. It's okay for men to cry and be emotional. It's okay for women to let someone else have a turn with the household chores. It's okay to fall short of your goals if you're doing the best that you can. Some of your biggest stressors may actually come from within yourself.

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