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Is Psychosomatic Pain Real?

Oct 15, 2008 - 20 comments




I have had this conversation so many times with so many medical professionals and the answer is, YES, YES, YES. The biggest mistake that you can make is to believe that the pain is not real. The pain may not be caused by an organic cause that can be fixed with medication but none the less the pain is real. The pain is caused by your thinking and that takes place in your brain, your brain is where you register that what you are feeling is organic pain so yes even if it is psychosomatic then you are still feeling real pain.

I have suffered from psychosomatic pain since I was 21 when all of a sudden I had this horrible headache after bashing my head that lasted months and months and month until it, or should I say I, turned it into a brain tumour. At the age of 23 I suffered severe heart problem which was going to kill me. The truth is there was no heart problem, it was chest pain and a host of other symptoms that I had experienced through stress. I knew from then on that stress came out of me in physical symptoms. Unfortunately my brain at the time is unable to compute this, instead it turns the symptoms into an automatic death sentence. Since all of this I have developed a health anxiety to boot. So whenever I have any type of pain or discomfort that doesn’t disappear quickly then all of a sudden I am dying. I haven’t got a muscle strain in my leg, I have a blood clot or I haven’t a persitent headache, instead I have a brain tumour. I catastrophise everything that it is health related with me. Crazy but I just cannot help it, this is just the way it is for now.

I am now in thearpy and my therapist thinks that I do not acknowledge my feelings when I am feeling them, I bury them away and then they morph into a physical symptom as my entire body is shouting ‘Hey, you know what I am bloody stressed, run down and you need to listen up and take note of what is going on’ but my brain doesn’t say it, instead my body reacts to the stress and comes out in a physical symptom. Apparently I have burried my feelings for so long that I don’t even know I am actually feeling stressed. I just accept everything for what it is and move on without actually dealing with anything.

I have also noticed that these ‘near death anxiety psychosomatic’ events seem to occur when there is nothing going on in my life and when I really do have no problems. I cope better under pressure and when there is no longer anything to cope with this is when the ******* gets me. Its like the obligatory Christmas Cold. You get the cold when you are relaxing and this is the way that anxiety get to me.

It ***** but it is just the way it is, or actually perhaps I shouldn’t just accept it, perhaps that is part of the problem and I just need to learn my feelings and deal with the emotions when the occur?

Can anyone relate or am I just crazy all by myself?

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by confused317, Oct 15, 2008
I know exactly how you feel.  I am suffering with the same problem and have since I was like 20 or so.  (am 30 now).. All those issues that I thought were def killing me, didn't.  And still to this day I am the same way, You are not alone.   Not at all.  Please feel free to keep in touch with me.  Maybe we can help each other...

Avatar universal
by vdrtime, Oct 16, 2008
I'm only 18 and I think the same things as you. I got non-ulcer dyspepsia back in May. You have all the symptoms of stomach ulcers and GERD but there is nothing wrong with your stomach on the x-ray. You have to take expensive antacids for relief but the disease is caused in your head, not your stomach! Supposedly stress is a factor, but my mom almost died and was in the hospital for a week and I had no symptoms! But when I am unwinding watching TV or reading a book it can be terrible! Whenever you get a new symptom you think: it there really something wrong with my body or is it just in my head? I would rather wish for a disease with a physical cause instead just psychosomatic! At least that way you can treat it and see its causes and effects on an x-ray!

Can't they find some way to turn off the areas of the brain that register pain and discomfort?

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by lonewolf07, Oct 16, 2008
You aren't alone - I'm crazy too.  I have to go to the dr tomorrow and can't sleep because of all the things I'm sure she is going to find wrong with me.  Every ache and pain becomes something horrible and fatal.  Every rash becomes something frightening.  After watching "Philadelphia", the movie about AIDS, I broke out in a rash (which I still have) although the chances that I have AIDS are zero.  It's a horrible way to exist - when our minds and bodies are at war with each other.

PS:  It doesn't help to have a dr who sends you for tests for everything.  I'm 46 yrs old - an old biddy  lol - and she has made me feel like I'm falling apart.  In Canada, where I am, it isn't easy finding a new dr.  The one I have just reinforces my fears and I have to go to my shrink to get some kind of balance.

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by gyp_sea, Nov 06, 2008
I have had debilitating joint pain since I was 12, I am now 27. I have been tested for Lupus, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and even had a false positive for lymes disease. Like everyone else, no doctor could help. It seemed like I was crazy. Not until years later did I realize that the pain may be psychosomatic. I have always been passive aggressive, so when I suppress my feelings, my body redirects it as pain. Ever since that realization, the pain has subsided. It still comes and goes and moves through out my body, but at least it is manageable (thank you Advil!) There is a book called, "The Divided Mind" by Dr. John Sarno. It deals with the mind-body connection. It has done wonders for many people I know. I hope it helps!

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by mikee22, Nov 09, 2008
well, i deffinuitely can realate woth you all and the experiences you have identified it made me reflect on all my past make believe illnesses. I have frightened myself so much that i have refutedly convinced myself that i in fact will test postive for hiv. I dont know if thinking about it and inquring about it bring on real symtoms but i do have them. I am petrified of finding out the results, but this hasnt been the only time when i thought i had them. I am very scared to say the least. So all i could do was seek help and people who have the same thing in common. Maybe someone could answer a question for me. I have been dwelling over this for a good while and i get sicker and sicke. Is there a possibility that its not real and that it it in my mind?

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by VaBreeze, Nov 09, 2008
I had 4 years, twice a week, of therapy and I needed it.  I too would not face what I felt and I didn't even know where to begin to express it.  I shoved it on down and just thought I was normal.  After counseling was complete it changed the way I thought about certain beliefs and also gave me strength to allow myself to 'believe' what I heard, saw and felt.  What a wonderful relief.  

Some of my issues were definitely psychosomatic and brought on by my own fears and anxiety.  However, the pain I felt was real, regardless of what caused it.  I have a biological disorder and take antidepressants and will continue to take them.  When i'm off of them my body and mind goes awry again.  

Suppressing feelings and pushing them away will only manifest as a physical problem in the long run.  The stress and anxiety levels will eventually change the way your body senses pain (which what I believe causes fibromyalgia).  I feel it results in a metabolic disorder that causes permanent damage to the CNS.

So you are not alone at all.  If you can, continue with the therapy and it will help you to face what your body and mind is denying.  You will learn how to better manage stress and feel so much healthier.  Therapy can be quite a lengthy process, so it takes a 'stick with it' attitude.  There will be times you just do not want to go, but force yourself because that is when you will breakthrough.

Take care and best of luck to you.

Avatar universal
by VaBreeze, Nov 09, 2008

If you are that upset and convinced, then you should contact your physician and get in there to be tested.  If it isn't positive then you may check into some counseling to help you deal with your anxiety.  If it is positive, then you wouldn't want to be putting it would want to be treating it and feeling better.  I don't know you that well to say if it could be all in your mind, but I do think you should check with your doctor soon.  

Be safe and take care.

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by namarie, Mar 08, 2009
You are definitely not alone. I am a victim of office-bullying of the worst kind and have now started suffering from stomach upsets and nausea every morning when I have to leave home for work. It is frightenening. Very often we are not ready to deal with our problems.... our internal issues and not ready to accept the pain that these issues are causing us. The only outlet the system finds is then through the physical symptoms. Its like an internal cry for help.... a SOS..... You might like to see a therapist and address the root cause. It is helping me tremendously ....

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by smile301, Sep 12, 2009
I have a similar issue.  Whenever I am going through a lot of emotional distress, i have this surging pain in my stomach/abdominal/chest area.  When it is really strong--it is in my chest area...when it migrates to my stomach area.  The longest I had it for was a week...I actually have it right now, and this is the 6th day.  It is so bothersome that I lose my appetite, I cannot study properly, I cannot focus properly...all I can do is think about the pain and the cause of the pain--which is an emotional source.  Usually when I eliminate the source of the problem...the pain leaves...but this time I don't know how to eliminate the problem because it arised out of seeing someone.  How can you delete images from your mind?  Along with images comes thought and regret.

One time the pain was so bad that all I had the motivation to do was to sleep..because I love that feeling of waking up in the morning and feeling for those very few seconds of NO PAIN at all...and then once the memories flood my brain again...the pain returns.  It's HORRIBLE.  The first time I experienced this pain was when I was 20..almost turning 21.  Sometimes I dream of going back to freshman year of college and re-starting things over so that I never have to feel this pain.  I'm sorry for sounding dramatic.  The pain can be from a very strong burning and throbbing in my chest to a mild pain in my stomach.  It is because of this experience that I have come to realize that physical pain is nothing compared to pain that arises from emotional distress.

I pray that no one ever has to feel this pain...and that God removes it from those who are suffering from it.  And namarie is right...once you tackle the root cause of the leaves.

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by sandra151167, Sep 12, 2009
I hav this constantlyi always think i hav lung cancer or kidney problems cos i can breath properley im always takin in deep breaths and gaging in the mornings my throat tightenss up and omg it has to be throat cancer what will become of us all only god knowshope he has mercy on us all and we can get better .

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by Dingo1961, Sep 25, 2009
i nearly died from several heart attacks, I'm phyiscally healthy now but the fear of death / death anxiety rules my waking hours.

Its a horrible cylce of thoughts of impending death, physical reactions to these thoughts, confused analysis of which is actually happenning, cause and effect (mind or body) trying to remain calm but still terrified that your analysis is wrong.....its a living hell.

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by mother_of_5, Sep 29, 2009
Is it possible to have psychosomatic illness but have blood tests come back looking abnormal? I have had blood tests come back abnormal quite a few times. But yet they find nothing wrong. A couple times they had diagnosed me with Lupus. But a few months later blood tests then looked better so they took the diagnosis back. I go back and forth like this for the last few years. I'm starting to fear its all in my head. The only thing that makes me wonder is those blood tests. My doctor says my mind can not alter those, but now I'm not so sure anymore. And if it is in my head, how in the world do I know when the pain is real, not that I do some day get old and really do have some real problem and just chalk it up to it being in my head ha ha.

Avatar universal
by halesk22, Jan 06, 2010
to mother -of -5 (and everyone):

This is really freaky to me, reading all of these responses. I am 21, and since I was 12, I have dealt with many of these symptoms, all of them varying in degree and flare-ups. I just stumbled upon this site, and I completely relate to this.

I have had the same issues with a wavering diagnosis of Lupus, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, IBS, anxiety, asthma...It *****. What ***** the most, is that our symptoms, though very real to us, don't always appear as "concrete" to others- it's not like cancer. When other people doubt my "disease", so do I, and then I attach all these other emotions to it. I say to myself, "I shouldn't be sick, I should just tough it out". And so I get stressed, and then I get sicker. I am too sick to work now.

Here are my questions: How do I sufficiently express my emotions? I think that would help part of the cause of the disease, but I don't know what to change. Also, are there any associations/ groups of people like us? Or any doctors on the forefront of studying this?

My one bit that I want to tell everyone about is that my symptoms are most DEFINITELY related to what I eat. I stopped eating Gluten and eat minimal amounts of dairy, and my wrist pain from arthritis that I have had since I was twelve has GONE AWAY!!

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by Danny234, Nov 12, 2010
My problems began with stomach pain at 18 when my dad was sick with a terminal illness. I then developed back pain that lasted for 2 years. Then I developed headaches and the back pain disappeared. I then became worried the headaches were a sign of a neurologicla disorder, and developed pain and weakness in my right arm and leg, at which point the headaches went away. I  have been to many doctors over the past few years and have had 8 MRIs in total on my back, neck, and head. I have also had muscle conduction tests and an EP test. None of the tests have ever found any organic cause for my pain. The pain subsided for the most part for a couple years but the headaches came back about 10 months ago during a stressflu time in my life and have continued, even though the stressful event has passed.

I have trouble accepting that my pain is "psychosomatic." Or, at the very least, I have yet to come across an explanation of how psychosomatic pain works. What exactly is happening in the brain that produces the sensation of pain? Is there some sort of glitch? Does the neurological wiring get crossed somehow? Something like that would make sense to me, because that is what feels like happens when the pain comes on. It feels like a switch has been flipped in my brain. The onset of the pain feels different than the onset of "normal" pain that has an identifiable organic cause, like spraining your ankle. Has anyone come across any research that discusses exactly what is going on in the brain of people with psychosomatic pain?

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by doug414, Dec 06, 2011
Hi there everyone,

I have had chronic stomoch pain for about 2 weeks now low in the abdomin, it comes & goes? as an experiment I took 2 X5mg Diazepam and within one hour the pain had gone? I have had a lot of stress lately but this is the first time this has occured in my life with the exception of headaches? I tend to hold my stomoch in tight & cannot stop doing it its almost involentry if taking a muscle relaxant releived the pain surely it cannot be serious? I was convinced a few weeks ago that I had cancer but understand now that I dont! can anyone please help me with this problem? you can reply directly to me via;


With Kind Regards


Avatar universal
by lovefaithhope__, Apr 29, 2014
I have been looking for a storyboard like this one for a while now! My symptoms started in January,severe shortness of breath heavy tite feeling in my chest and mild cold symptoms ECT ect, went to my doctors and he didn't think much of it but instead ordered a chest x ray with blood work  rite away to rule out pneumonia.Everything came back clear no pneumonia or signs of infection, he then said he thought it was acute bronchitis and so he prescribed a round of antibiotics and gave me an inhaler for any future reoccurring shortness of breath episodes, about a week later I was still experiencing severe random onset shortness of breath episodes (had already been done with the course of antibiotics I was given) I freaked and went to the e.r.. Got another chest x ray and s blood work.. X ray was clear blood work was normal no signs of infection oxygen level 99 normal base line vitals normal normal NORMAL! but somehow i was still choking! Gasping for air!!! The e.r doctor ordered a shot of ativan 1mg.. A couple of minutes later poof!! I was feeling great, breathing fine! Got discharged and picked up by a friend dropped off at my house, i ended up sleeping like a baby that night... Only to wake up the next morning with shortness of breath and impending feeling of doom! Just kept thinking this is it for me its pneumonia but Dr.s can't seem to spot it.. So for the next month i was in and out of my primary care physicians office in and out of e.r's hoping that they would see something wrong with my lungs, witch in my case i was 100% sure it was pneumonia. But no my lungs were fine, according to the x rays they kept taking, everything was normal Clear lung sounds, normal blood tests, 02level was perfect, vitals were normal.. Eventually my doctor and close family started catching on to the fact that it was ALL IN MY HEAD! i started realizing that i would only feel these so called pneumonia shortness of breath symptoms in the day time and at night time when my mind/body would be to tired to fight the feelings my symptoms would pretty much vanish.. Eventually i started feeling better but that's when **** really hit the fan! I somehow started developing chest discomfort, in a matter of days i was having the shortness of breath again with heart attack symptoms, i was one hundred percent sure i was having some kind of cardiovascular problem and not pneumonia so i was at it again, back in my doctors office back in the e.r.. EKG, chest x ray blood work everything was normal, i tried taking some time off school to feel better but only got worse, i ended up calling an ambulance 3 days in a row because i was so sure that these imaginary heart attacks were life threatening.Everything kept on coming back normal, i was checked in to a nearby psychiatric hospital for a psyche eval.. I got diagnosed with severe anxiety and psycogenic chest pain and on top of that I've been living with bipolar disorder since i was 15 but didn't realize that not taking my meds would put me in a situation like this.. I've been hospitalized in the past for my bipolar disorder.. but whenever i had a bipolar manic depressive or just a  manic episode the symptoms would be mental not physical, i mean everything from mild hallucinations to not being able to sleep for 4 days straight! All mental nothing physical!  The hole time i was hospitalized for this wierd episode I was so confused, mad and hopeless because I had no mental symptoms exept for I guess physical mental symptoms, this was all new to me, I was terrified about the hole situation.. Felt trapped and helpless because I thought I was being misdiagnosed and somehow was still experiencing heart problem symptoms.. Eventually I was put on meds and all symptoms disappeared. 16 days later i was discharged and felt fine for a while.. Eventually i stopped taking my meds because i felt ok again, biggest mistake I've made in a while because for the last two months I've been having random symptoms of physical illnesses.. I've convinced my self once again that I have some kind of terminal illness and once again I started having all sorts of blood work done including HIV std alot of blood work testing for my unexplained random persistent symptoms.. All sorts of tests from Ct scans to stool cultures, ultrasounds ECT ECT and NOTHING! Only thing was a microscopic trace of blood in my urine that my Dr wasn't concerned about... Talk about CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAZZZZZZZZZZYYYYYY I wonder how this imaginary terminal illness is going to turn out? I sometimes think.. If its really all in my head do me being bipolar id much rather have a full on psychotic episode with mild hallucinations and delusions (although they could be frightening and weird *** hell) I'd rather take that instead of this weird psychosomatic crap that to me personally is no joke! One point I came across is that the human mind is a really really powerful weapon, I mean take a look at everything around you.. It was all built \ invented by a human mind.. (exept for trees plants ECT) it can be useful and beautiful at times but other times it can become a powerful weapon that builds nuclear bombs,starts wars and last but not least turns on you and your own body, plays painfull mind games and litteraly makes you suffer for no reason.. Good luck with everything everybody! God bless and try your best to stay possitive

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by C198, Feb 28, 2015
This makes me feel I am not alone. I suffer from anxiety, a couple years back I went through a traumatizing event. Stress hung on and I developed an ulcer. Since then I have healed, and I take medicine to help with anxiety and depression. Just recently I felt stomach pain after working out at the gym. I assumed it was nothing, but it stayed. I went to the doctor and he said nothing was wrong. But in my mind I already diagnosed myself with a hernia and an ulcer. Two horrible things. I have had stomach pains and nausea. Also dizziness. It's awful. I am working through this flare up, but it hasn't been easy. I am praying and trying to be positive. But I still worry I have a medical problem. Even though the doctor said I'm okay.

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by Sunshine5252, Apr 16, 2015
I'm so very very very sorry- I completely understand what you are going threw. I know myself I'm physically healthy, why because I just was tested for everything. All labs normal matter of fact Perfect. However, I have been dealing with debilitating health anxiety for about 14 years (I'm 35). The fear I have is crippling at times. I have this overwhelming fear I have a horrible disease, that has gone undetected. I am a mother of four children- so I have to really try and "keep it together". I am very sensitive to pain and believe that I feel every little thing- My anxiety has manifested  into pounding heart, 2 EKG's fine. my body parts going completely numb, mind racing, shaking, difficulty breathing- or forgetting to breath. I started to see a psychiatrist because I think I'm going insane- I was diagnosed with somatoform disorder------hypochondria-------   I understand you.......You are not alone! I started on another anti-depressant, very small dose of Xanax ( I don't like narcotics) therepy, and my psychiatrist. I'm beginning, on good days to see the light. I pray on a daily basis, GOD will remove this fear of illness.......You see....... When I'm in that state of mind I am not any good to anyone, I'm my own worst enemy. Matthew 6:27---------Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? I hope that you find your way...........Many people are unfortunately experiencing the same battle...

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by elregio, May 05, 2015
So my upset stomach and paint in all joints and muscles can be result of anxiety?

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by Thoth111, Oct 08, 2015
I can help all of you. I have gone through this. All pain or disease starts at the emotions. Please free to contact me at ***@****

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