Psychosomatic Illness and Stress Management

By Tess Thompson

Psychosomatic illnesses are often confused with malingering (evading work by pretending to be incapacitated), mental disorders and delusions. Psychosomatic disorders are actually illnesses caused by the mental processes of the patient. Most of these disorders do not have any apparent physiological cause. The condition is now commonly referred to as a psycho-physiological (psychosomatic) illness, and the syndromes are classified as:

  • Neurotic disorders.
  • Stress-related.
  • Somatoform disorders - disorders with no organic cause.

The relation between physical and psychological causes of illnesses is complex. Some physical illnesses like hysterical paralysis, hysteria and inflammation of muscle tissue are directly related to psychological problems. Some physical conditions like vitamin deficiency or injury to the brain lead to other kinds of psychological disorders.

There has been a fair amount of research in neurophysiology ever since it was first realized by an Islamic psychologist-physician a thousand years ago, which found that the physiology and psychology of an individual are interrelated. Some modern diseases are now understood to be the direct result of stress and strains that modern life is capable of producing. That makes stress management an integral part of present day life to avoid psychosomatic illnesses.

Psychosomatic illnesses normally develop due to:

  • A traumatic stressful event occurring in one’s life.
  • Chronic stress.
  • A persistent negative frame of mind.

A stressor on its own does not lead to stress. Stress can be understood as an imbalance between needs or expectations and available resources. Stress occurs when the pressure from genuine or unrealistic demands is greater than the ability to cope with them. The basic goal of managing stress is gaining skills that can be utilized for coping with stress or altering stressful situations.

It is the negative appraisal of a stressor that causes stress. Effective stress management can be done by trying to change the perception that one has towards the cause of the stress. If a person perceives a stressor as positive and challenging rather than as a threat, stress may not necessarily follow a potential stressor.

Another way of relieving stress is doing an assessment of circumstances. One’s response to a stressor is based on one’s thought process. If you are seized by negative thoughts and insecurity, you are prone to be stressed. The positive thought process leads to a general sense of wellness and enables you to dissociate from it and approach life with a calm and cool mind, practical judgment and inner wisdom.

There are many ways to relieve stress and avoid psychosomatic illnesses that chronic stress can cause. Sometimes managing stress may be as simple as learning time management and to say ‘no’ to some demands made upon you.


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