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Sunday, February 5, 2023
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Sunday, February 5, 2023
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    Are physical health issues signs of mental strain?

    Sujina Manandhar

    ANN/THE KATHMANDU POST – Every now and then, we get clients who come for counselling sessions complaining of physical illnesses or symptoms dating back several months or even years. Most of these symptoms tend to appear in the form of frequent headaches, muscle strain, backache, constant fatigue, gastritis, ulcer or episodes of fainting.

    Clients often complain of experiencing more than one of the symptoms mentioned above.

    Many of such clients even come carrying results of many test reports they have had done to find the cause of their illnesses. However, none of these results reveals the actual cause behind their ailment.

    Psychological service providers investigate such cases and attempt to find if the appearance of physical illnesses/symptoms has anything to do with some form of stressors (known and unknown) in the patients’ lives.

    If psychological counsellors find that to be the case, they use a myriad of therapies and techniques in a bid to help clients deal with these stressors. This finally leads to the gradual improvement in their physical and mental well-being.

    Physical illnesses with no underlying medical explanations are often the result of a condition known as a psychosomatic disorder. The symptoms, however, are very real and cause significant physical distress and discomfort to the individual.


    However new and unfamiliar it may sound, psychosomatic disorders are quite common.

    Individuals scourged by this disorder keep seeking medical help without knowing its actual reason. And thus, the condition may continue to remain unaddressed for years and be hidden in plain sight owing to a lack of awareness.


    Psychosomatic disorders result from the inner turmoil of stress and underlying mental health issues, which manifest as physical symptoms.

    When psychological stressors and mental health issues, ranging from unresolved childhood trauma to recent stressful events, do not find a proper outlet, they can also manifest in the form of physical illnesses.


    Getting psychological treatment. If you have a long-lasting, unexplained physical illness with no signs of improvement despite frequent hospital visits, visiting a psychological service provider would be a good idea. If your condition is not the result of any physical condition, seeking psychological therapies and counselling and making lifestyle changes can help you eliminate the burden of living with a psychosomatic disorder.

    Keeping stress at bay. As unmanaged stress increases the likelihood of various mental health conditions by several folds, managing everyday stress prudently can be considered a healthy habit that all of us need to adopt. Even though it is not a substitute for getting proper psychological treatment, managing your day-to-day stress will surely help keep the negative impacts of psychosomatic disorder at bay. You will find a myriad of stress management techniques on the Internet.

    Here are some tried and tested tips to help you deal with stress:

    Express yourself. We have all heard the saying, ‘sharing your worries will halve them and sharing your happiness will double it’.

    Stress can get accumulated when you do not let it out. If you are dealing with stress, talk to someone you trust and are comfortable with.

    You will surely notice a sense of relief when you do that.

    Breathing exercise. It might sound silly to some when people suggest that you breathe.

    But trust me, it is very effective. Try this breathing exercise whenever you feel that familiar sense of stress or fear washing over you. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Feel the air slowly filling up your lungs. Once you reach your limit, hold that breath in and slowly count to five. Then, gradually breathe out through your mouth. Repeat this process five to 10 times at a time.

    Write it out. In case you do not have anyone to share your feelings with when you are feeling stressed, just grab a piece of paper and start pouring your thoughts and emotions into it.

    Write whatever comes to your mind and let it flow naturally. Let your pen guide your feelings if you cannot think of what to write. Let the words, drawings or even scribbles get poured into the paper.

    There are no notions of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as you are the only one who will get to see it. Once you are done, tear the paper and let go of your stress along with it.

    This is also a great tool to get better clarity of your own thoughts and feelings.

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