A Fresh Perspective On Emotions and Medical Conditions
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In medicine, we encounter many common conditions whose underlying cause remains inadequately understood. We have medicines that can ameliorate symptoms or inflammation, but we are unable to cure most of them. Worse, treatment can involve adverse effects and can be required for a lifetime.
Mind-body research, for decades, has tried to prove that the widely suspected connection between the emotional distress we feel is a cause of many many medical conditions. However, as I discuss in my new book ‘Hidden Within Us’ (April 2022), this understanding has led to disappointingly little progress in understanding and treating those conditions. Most importantly this traditional understanding, completely overlooks the much greater yet unsuspected role of powerful emotions that, without our awareness, we unknowingly harbor within us.
In my new book, Hidden Within Us, I present intriguing observations that make the unnoticed role of repressed emotions unavoidable and convey the new pathways to treatment, healing, and self-healing that this understanding offers.
Medical Illnesses and the Mind-Body Link
Decades of intimate conversations with patients and evidence reported in published studies, convince me that this new understanding is relevant in a portion of patients to a long list of prevalent conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diseases, migraine, asthma, fibromyalgia, and many others. Although we know a considerable amount about the pathophysiology, of those conditions, too often we still don’t know what triggers, what turns on, the culprit pathophysiologic process.
Even though at first I wasn’t looking for it, the specter of repressed emotions arose again and again. My clinical experience strongly suggests that, ironically, the mind-body connection is often relevant in patients who do not complain of emotional distress and who, if anything, would argue against the existence of such a link. In this context, I will dicuss the clues that suggest a mind-body orgin.
In my book Hidden Within Us, I present intriguing observations that make the unnoticed role of repressed emotions unavoidable, and convey the new pathways to treatment this unnoticed role of repressed emotions. Patients’ stories that I hope will ring true for its readers and evidence from published studies that support this new understanding.
I emphasize though that this understanding does not underlie medical conditions in all patients. I believe it is relevant in a proportion of patients, a proportion that differs from condition to condition. Clearly, genetic predisposition plays a major role in many patients independent of any mind-body connection, and physical or environmental triggers that we don’t fully understand also participate. Still, although we know a considerable amount about the pathophysiology of those conditions, too often we still don’t know what triggers, what turns on, the culprit pathophysiologic processes. In this context, I will discuss the clues that suggest a mind-body origin.
Based on my clinical experience and data from published studies, I suspect that a mind-body link related to repressed emotions could be relevant in half or more of patients with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and other unexplained chronic pain syndromes, and in patients with unexplained anxiety. I suspect it is relevant in a significant but lower proportion of patients with migraine, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diseases,and possibly other conditions that I do not discuss in the book, such as non-allergic asthma, unexpected postpartum depression, and others.
Given the persisting puzzle of the origin of so many disorders, the limitations and adverse effects of current treatment, the need in many disorders for lifelong treatment, and the continued suffering of many patients for years and even decades, we need to begin to consider the unexamined role of our most powerful emotions, a role that has never been explored because those emotions are not consciously experienced and are not or reported.
Medical Conditions & Case Examples
Here are a few case examples from my new book that illustrate the connection between certain medical conditions and the mind-body link in my new book:
Chronic fatigue syndrome
A 22-year-old patient had been suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome for four years. He had grown up amid severe and virtually constant acrimony at home. Remarkably, he had insisted there had been no emotional repercussions. Nevertheless, he responded quickly to treatment with an antidepressant.
Hypertension: A patient had been suffering from symptomatic hypertension. She had no recent stress, but her history revealed a period of very stressful years following a divorce when she raised two toddlers, worked 2 jobs and obtained a college degree. Even though she had never suffered from anxiety or depression during those years. Nevertheless, her hypertensive episodes ceased within three weeks of recognizing the emotional burden that had been held within.
Migraine headaches: A patient with a 30-year history of migraine headaches experienced cessation of attacks after gaining awareness of emotions related to parental disharmony and emotional abuse during her childhood.
Unexplained anxiety: A 38 year old patient, had been to five cardiologists and was taking five blood pressure medications. He had three problems that he had been enduring for many years: hypertension, anxiety and a racing heart. Suspecting that all 3 problems were driven by repression of anxiety that was necessary to make it through his tough early years as an immigrant, I prescribed a beta-blocker to lower his blood pressure and heart rate, and also, to some extent, reduce his anxiety. The medication worked.
My experience tells me again and again that emotions buried long ago can affect us years or even decades later. When we experience frightening feelings that don’t make sense in the present, they often have their origin in our past. With that understanding, becoming aware of those emotions and their origin offers an opportunity for healing. And, importantly, we can tolerate the emotions that our mind allows into awareness better than we think we can. For further insights on the above ailments and others in relation to the mind-body link, read Hidden With Us when it is released in April 2021.
Beyond Mainstream Medical Thinking
In my new blog series, entitled Beyond Mainstream Medical Thinking, I will present down-to-earth, valuable information from my new book Hidden Within Us and other valuable information that though unknown to most patients and physicians, reflect decades of clinical experience and is backed by logic, common sense and by what we know about physiology and pharmacology. I plan to issue one blog per month with information that will be relevant to the health and treatment of millions of people treated by conventional medical wisdom who are ready to look beyond the limitations of standardized approaches to treatment. I am confident that you will enjoy reading these articles and find them meaningful.
About Samuel J. Mann, M.D.
Dr. Mann is a physician, author and researcher, specializing in the management of hypertension at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College.
While Dr. Mann is from a prestigious medical institution at the forefront of heart health and traditional medicine, he has powerful alternative views that go beyond mainstream schools of thought. He believes in ‘individualized treatment’ and has better ways to understand and treat hypertension.
He has released two pioneering, well reviewed books on hypertension, and his soon to be launched book Hidden Within Us will highlight a new understanding of the mind-body connection as it pertains to other medical conditions as well.
He has published numerous papers in leading medicine, hypertension and psychology journals and received national media and broadcast coverage on the subject matter.
Beyond Mainstream Medical Thinking
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