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'Worrying Yourself Sick' — Can Psychosomatic Symptoms Harm Me?


Am I hurt?

Have you ever had an ache or pain in your body and wondered if it was dangerous? I’m sure the answer is a resounding yes. Why do you think WebMD exists? People worry about dying, and they can become hypervigilant about how they feel. That ache could be the sign of a chronic condition, or it may just be what it seems like — a passing uncomfortable feeling. But, what if it’s not? You might start to wonder whether something is wrong with you. If you struggle with anxiety, you’ll probably worry even more than a neurotypical person. The trouble is when you worry to the point where you’re physically sick.

You can literally “worry yourself sick.”

You’re probably familiar with the expression “worry yourself sick.” It’s an old idiom for a reason: it’s true. You can obsess and worry to the point where you unintentionally make yourself physically ill. Notice I said that you didn’t become ill on purpose. That’s because you weren’t thinking about getting sick, you were worried genuinely about something, and as a result, your mind holds in your body that something was wrong with you. In this case, you’re experiencing psychosomatic symptoms. Psychosomatic is otherwise known as somatizations. That’s when you feel physical symptoms in your body that is emotional pain. 

Long-term effects

Even if your pain is psychosomatic, it feels real to you. Your body hurts, and your mind is telling you there’s something wrong with you. So that creates anxiety, and now you start to experience physical pain as a result of those anxious feelings. Some studies show that stress can result in further problems, such as heart disease. These aches and pains should be taken seriously. If you feel like there is something in your body that hurts, even if you don’t know if it’s psychosomatic or not, it’s crucial that you visit a medical professional. You need to get checked out to see if your pain is emotional or physical. It may be a combination of both, but somebody in the medical field needs to look at you. But, here’s the problem: sometimes doctors don’t believe you.

When doctors don’t believe your symptoms

Say you get the courage to address your pain and go to the doctor. You tell them that something hurts, whatever that “something” is. Your pain is real, unless you were trying to cut school or work and fake being sick to get a doctor’s note, in which case many of us have been there. But let’s assume that you’re on the up and up and telling the doctor the truth. Many medical professionals are unfamiliar with anxiety. It’s tragic that the system is like this, but if you go into a doctor’s office and you appear anxious, a doctor may not  believe you. And if you have anxiety in your medical chart, then the doctor may automatically assume that anything that comes out of your mouth is a result of something “made up in your head.” I know it’s true because it happened to my friend. She went to the doctor and told them that her stomach was hurting. The doctor didn’t believe her symptoms were “real,” wrote them off as anxiety, and it turned out she had an ovarian cyst. It’s important for doctors to believe their patients.

Keep speaking up about your health

You have one life unless you’re a cat, and then there are exceptions. Use your time on Earth wisely. Go to the doctor when you are in pain, whether that’s physical or emotional or both. An excellent place to start is consulting with a general practitioner, and if a medical professional of any kind invalidates your symptoms, speak up! You don’t have to tolerate that behavior. If you need to get a second opinion or third one, do it; you’re not crazy. Your symptoms are real. Psychosomatic or not, how you feel in your mind and body is happening in reality. You have the right to get healthy, whether that’s your physical well-being or your mental health. Part of that is seeing a therapist. There are many ways to get help. You can work with a therapist online or in your local area. Your mental health matters.

Getty photo by metamorworks