I bet all of you have experienced the itching sensation, which seems unbearable in that moment especially when you are not allowed to scratch. I also bet that, right now, reading about itching, actually makes you want to scratch.
So, if the mind is capable of creating an itch, what else could it be capable of creating?
Imagine your mind crowded with dreadful thoughts and images of what you fear the most. The colors are vivid and the transition from image to image is anything but smooth. All of a sudden, your eyes get blurry and your ears pop, as if you are underwater. Your heart is pounding. And without being able to stop it, your world goes black. Your body has just responded to the anxiety your mind created. Which leads to the mind is indeed capable of affecting the body.
But what do we mean by using the word “mind”?
It is not the brain itself; rather, it is the mind that psychology is primarily concerned with. Explored here is the relationship and connection between the health of the body and the health of the mind, or “mental health.” Mental health is defined, in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, as “a state of emotional and psychological well-being in which an individual is able to use his or her cognitive and emotional capabilities, function in society, and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life.”
Except for itching or intensifying various physical symptoms, can the mind also create physical pain?
That is the original question, but before we answer with a firm “yes”, we need to identify two different types of pain sensations. The first one is called “peripheral”, and the second, “central sensitization”. Their difference lies in their cause. Peripheral pain sensitivity concerns pain triggered due to inflammation or tissue damage, and therefore lasts for as long as the stimulus exists. However, bodily harm is not a prerequisite for central sensitization which can manifest itself without a an initial stimulus or harm. In this case, the body’s neurons can be stimulated much more easily and for longer periods, thus, people with such condition often suffer from chronic pain.
Upon researching this certain topic, I stumbled across various cases where people’s psychology, i.e. their minds, actually made their lives unbearable. What struck me the most was the case of a teenage boy named Kieran Porter, who suffered from what proved to be a psychogenic illness. His symptoms, including ballism (a condition of involuntary violent movements), dystonia (involuntary muscle contractions), tremors and hypokinesia (decreased muscular movement), would vanish and flare up on an irregular basis.
In general, psychological illnesses may involve a wide range of neurological symptoms. Whether it be movement disorders, blindness or pain, the reason behind them could be psychogenic illness if no physical explanations can be found. Once established as a medical phenomenon, research has been conducted on psychogenic illnesses and it has been proven that there are clear differences in the patients’ brain activity, connecting their thoughts and emotions with their physical state.
Stress and depression are also common conditions that lead to chronic pain. Quite a lot of people complain about flu symptoms, nausea, fatigue, headaches, backache, gastrointestinal problems, but are not even aware of the fact that they suffer from depression.
“I think a good example”, says William Christiana, M.D., Chairman at the Department of Medicine Clara Mass Medical Center, “which happens frequently in the office of the primary care practitioner, would be that of a 45-year-old woman. She came in with complaints of ten days of body aches, malaise, nausea, dizziness, fatigue. She was under the impression that she had the flu. When we discussed her other symptoms, such as fever, every symptom was negative. At that point, we started to talk about her personal life and she actually broke down and cried. So, it became quite apparent to me, and I think also to her, that this in fact was not the flu; it was her body’s response to the enormous amount of stress that she felt she was under over the past few months.”
Along the way it has become pretty obvious that the phrase “it’s all in your head” is actually reasonable. What a powerful mind!
To Learn More Check Out Dave Collins’ Book, “Power of the Mind”