Can Emotions Cause Physical Pain?
Have you ever read, heard, or seen something so devastating and painful, that you can feel your heart plummet as a heavy thud that sinks in the bottom of your stomach? Or, a reaction so severe that your chest physically aches, you get a shortness of breath, your stomach constricts and writhes?
The famous saying goes without question that “life is like a box of chocolates.” Another fitting metaphor is that of “life is a rollercoaster.” More specifically, an emotional one filled with highs and lows, winding, twisting roadways left and right. Believe it or not, these emotional obstacles, whether good or bad, can have a physical impact on our bodies. Of course, there is physical pain resulting from a multitude of things, as little as a tiny stinging papercut to a broken bone. However, this article is a connecting deep-dive between emotions and our bodily reactions. Today, we’ll focus on the more negative emotions and how they are unfavorable to our bodies.
Taking a different route, research shows that emotional stressors can trigger many chronic pains. Our brains can sometimes interpret pain in a particular way; nerve responders hold on to pain (pain memory), or people dealing with trauma turn to unhealthy, damaging coping mechanisms.
What Kind of Pain?
While everyone experiences pain differently and has a wide range of tolerances, studies show that pain in the body triggered by psychological effects tends to be either acute or chronic. Chronic pain, lingering anywhere from a few weeks to multiple years, is most presently felt in the upper body; pain in the abdominal, neck, back, shoulder region, and headaches and dizziness. Seeking treatment for chronic pain is commonly encouraged. However acute pain — sharp and brief — usually does not require treatment.
What Kinds of Causes?
As previously mentioned, there are numerous ways to why our brain registers emotions and feelings and turns those into pain symptoms we feel in our body.
One of the most prominent causes of physical pain is inflicted by our emotions. These include mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. If you are suffering or know someone is suffering, it’s essential to speak out and seek health. There is more information below on non-professional methods that may slightly help to alleviate these feelings.
Another ailing cause can be stress. Having both physical and emotional effects on our bodies, stress can raise blood pressure, cause muscle tension, and increase breathing and heart rate. These lead to fatigue, sleeping problems, and changes in appetite. Not only that, when someone is overly stressed, they can feel anxious and are more likely to get angry and frustrated over little things. Projecting one’s feelings when stressed can be difficult and straining on all types of relationships.
What Kind of Treatment?
When it comes to what kind of treatment you should receive, it’s first essential to break down the emotional triggers causing this lasting pain. Numerous solutions such as medication, dietary adjustments, lifestyle changes, and physical therapy are viable options for reducing and relieving pain symptoms.
If an emotional pain such as anxiety or depression leads someone towards harmful coping mechanisms like substance abuse, harming oneself or others, or compulsive behavior, seeking professional help through psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both is a plausible pathway to a healing process.
Medicinal practices like acupuncture, seeing a chiropractor, or occupational therapy also treat the underlying symptoms where it’s causing pain. Suppose you may be feeling pain, and you are unsure of where it is coming from. To pinpoint the source and treat it, talk to a licensed professional Additionally. In that case, it is critical to remember that each individual responds differently to specific treatments and an individual diagnosis is always crucial.
Preventative Coping Mechanisms
There is a multitude of ways to find an area for an outlet to relieve ourselves of stressors. If you are struggling with an emotional burden, seeking help from a professional can be highly encouraged. Aside from that, a perhaps more convenient, cheap method is to talk to someone you trust — a parent, friend, spouse, anyone you can reach out to and talk to for a bit. Suppose you are uncomfortable speaking and opening up to someone. In that case, another helpful method is writing down your feelings or thoughts onto paper.
Similar methods that don’t include sharing your thoughts can be drawing, painting, creating a song, or writing poems. Using art, no matter what level of creativity you are is an outlet for releasing heavy burdens and engaging our minds in something healthy and creative.
If something in the arts isn’t your forte, finding a remedy in nature or athletics is also a great relief. Whether that’s finding a local gym, signing up to try something new such as pilates or kickboxing, or something as simple as lacing on your running shoes and going for a walk or jog around the neighborhood. Exercising releases chemicals in the brain known as dopamine and endorphins, which are proven to raise moods and are known as “happy hormones.” Additionally, simply sitting outside surrounded by green nature can alleviate cluttered, intrusive thoughts. The practice of meditation is highly beneficial and rooted in clearing the mind. These are all great preventative coping mechanisms that can help an onslaught of emotions that could potentially be harmful, and thus in one way or another leading to physical pain which would introduce a whole new area of issues.
Lastly, sometimes we need to de-stress and lose ourselves. Nowadays, there is a never-ending stream of (free) content, ranging from movies, television shows, and books. Reading or binge-watching a tv series can be beneficial as a de-stressing reward after a long, tiring day. Sometimes, losing ourselves and temporarily forgetting the state, whether good or bad, we may be in, is a fun and entertaining way to seek comfort. As long as everything is done in moderation, there is no saying what you can and cannot do as an outlet for keeping those negative emotions boarded up or healthily released.
In the end, it’s most important to practice mental and physical health and prioritize our well-being. It is proven that emotions can cause physical pain. The first step in combating the pain is acknowledging what potential triggers may be causing discomfort to ail our bodies. After seeking help or indulging in preventative methods to take care of ourselves should be of most importance to ourselves and those we care about.
Yuna Liang is currently a highschool student in the Bay Area. Always having a love for literature, she has bloomed her passion into writing, whether that be in the form of poetry, songwriting, or blogging. In her free time, Yuna enjoys golfing, reading, and anything to do with music.