It is the most common experience in which the body expresses deep-seated feelings. Symptoms are unique to every person and may include sudden heart palpitations, sweating, numbness, increase or decrease in body temperature, shaky hands, stammering, loss of balance, bowel problems, nausea, tiredness, headaches or any other aches. This may leave the individual confused about their experiences. The latest research has proven that there is a strong connection between mind and body and when the mind is out of balance it will be reflected in the body and vice versa. This means that bodily symptoms point towards the need to look deeper into their meaning and the information they carry. It may that the individual does not consciously want to face difficulties in their life or that the psyche automatically protects the owner from distress by ignoring or shutting down the awareness of difficulties. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is the most efficient way to discover the root cause of the symptoms and assist the individual in processing hidden from the awareness feelings, memories, or fears that usually leads to relief of bodily symptoms.
Bodily symptoms may extend to resemble serious medical conditions, cause the individual physical difficulties or temporary disability. In cases where there is no medical reason for the physical disorder, symptoms are viewed as a conversion disorder. It is caused by severe stress, trauma, perception of threat, or depression. Often the bodily symptoms may mimic those of flight or fight response, where body freezes, is experienced as paralysed, there is difficulty swallowing, walking or talking, weakness, unresponsiveness, body shakes, loss of sensory experience, seizures or lack of consciousness may occur. Similarly, to somatisation, where the mental experience of the event is denied its acknowledgment or expression through feeling hurt or talking about it, the energy travels to the body and is expressed through it. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy will help you to learn to feel safe in your body so that underlying difficulties can be faced in your own time, provide body-related psychoeducation, and help you explore the body-mind link. Your psychotherapist will then guide you towards the most effective solutions to the underlying problem.
Self-harm can take many forms. It includes direct self-harm, such as cutting, burning, hitting, piercing, inserting objects under the skin or scratching yourself, pulling own hair or other serious physical self-injury, and indirect self-harm where one neglects to look after themselves, puts themselves in dangerous or risky situations, indulges in unhelpful eating, drinking or drug habits, acting provocatively towards other people, engaging in activities that make you feel worse about yourself or life.
Self-harm does not only limit itself to physical injury. Emotional self-harm is not less destructive and can be perpetuated through inner criticism, remaining in abusive or unhealthy relationships, undermining oneself, or paying attention only to negative sides of the self and life.
Self-harm provides powerful relief from difficult feelings, due to triggering endorphin release in a brain. This makes the person feel calm and safe. The act of self-harm often points to a more serious problem with emotional regulation. It is when other coping strategies for calming feelings are not available, the individual resorts to self-harm. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is found to be the most effective means of exploring reasons for self-harm. Your therapist will encourage you to slowly build a trusting connection where you can feel safe to open up and share your difficulties. You will then be gently guided towards learning more about what feelings are and what do they mean. You will learn alternative ways you could tolerate your feelings and engage in more helpful behaviours. You will be able to observe the way your therapist models containing their feelings and encouraged to practice in sessions
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder with at least 10% of people affected worldwide. IBS can be triggered by stress, infections, antibiotics, surgery, dietary changes, food allergies, and intolerances. Symptoms of IBS include stomach pain or cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation. The root cause of the disorder is believed to be a combination of physiological and psychological factors. An abnormal gastrointestinal tract movement due to increased serotonin in the digestive tract and disrupted communication between the brain and gastrointestinal tract is amplified by increased introspection into bodily functions create symptoms of IBS. It is advised that you consult your GP to obtain a referral to a gastroenterologist who will help you to establish the root cause of your condition.
Together with your psychotherapist you will look at and modify potential maintenance factors of your symptoms. These can include emotional, environmental, cognitive, physical, and behavioural factors. You will be encouraged to identify the frequency of symptoms, triggering factors, and responses, and address any fears surrounding toilet availability. With the help of cognitive behavioural psychotherapy, you will be helped to reduce stress and hypervigilance of your symptoms. You will set goals for improving toilet habits such as having to go to the toilet at a set time; being unable to leave the house until the bowel movement; fear of smells and noises, restrictive diet for fear of worsening symptoms; monitoring toilet availability; excessive time and frequency of toilet use. Your psychotherapist will invite you to address any rigid rules and beliefs that are causing these unhelpful habits. These may include the need for control, perfectionism, excessive worry about the opinions of others.