Can emotional pain lead to, or cause, physical pain entirely?
To mainstream medicine, the notion is ridiculous. Unfortunately for us, mainstream medicine isn’t all that scientific.
Note: This is not medical advice. I, the Author, am distributing knowledge learned from doctors, books, and the Author’s personal experience. By reading this article you, the Reader, agree to exempt the author & associates of all damage, problems, issues, pain, or any liability, direct or as a result thereof, from the result of reading this article. You, the Reader, agree to conduct your own research and make opinions & decisions that are not influenced by this article, and agree not to use this article as a basis for any decisions or opinions created by reading it. If you do not agree, you may not read the article.
The short answer? Yes, emotional pain causes chronic pain.
The answer? Now that’s a fun story through my life…
The (Sad) Story of My Life (and Most Everyone Else)
As a child, I had “asthma” and “allergies.”
I “grew out of these things” around age 14-16.
Like most kids, I got sick from the “common cold” a few times each year.
Because of school, I wore a backpack that was tough on my knees, and spent too much time sitting down in classrooms.
When I tried cross country, this led to “shin splints” and a “repetitive strain injury.”
I went to 4 different Elementary schools, was bullied intensely in middle school, and spent high school feeling disassociated, not socially connected, etc.
The latter part of high school was spent doing reckless things in an attempt to fit in.
After moving away from my hometown, my hands developed a strange, inexplicable pain.
The best bet the doctors could give me was that it was “repetitive strain” from a decade+ of piano playing and video games.
Then, in December of 2016, my life changed forever.
While snowboarding in the Northern Arizona mountains, I “high-sided” and flipped over while speeding down a hill.
The next day I had a concussion, and felt out of it.
Despite me begging to see a doctor, my parents didn’t take me because “money.”
I spent the next month scared, alone, unable to drive, and in a lot of pain.
I was healing slowly and re-engaging, when a church pastor told me that I should “be careful” because these things “can come back.”
The next day, the “concussion” was back with a severe “headache.”
The pain was real, and measurable. I attributed to the “concussion coming back” to me pushing life too hard through driving, trying to jog again, etc.
Over the next year I developed neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, my hand pain kinda went away, and horrible headaches.
This was thought to be due to “muscle tension” and a “whiplash injury” that would’ve also occurred as a result of the snowboarding accident.
The day after my injury my neck was also hurting, so I had some minor whiplash.
Taking Desperate Measures to Cure Myself
I didn’t like living with my family. It was hell, and I always had wanted to leave and be on my own.
Despite being this much in pain, I forced myself to work long hours and obsess over digital marketing.
My parents weren’t taking me to doctors, so I had to pay for this myself.
I saw many- all of them perplexed and confused. My MRIs and tests were all perfect- what was causing the pain???
The physical pain was very much real. The muscles were measurably tense & weak.
I saw the #1 physiotherapist in North America. Seeing him helped a bit, yet still the pain persisted!
I did the exercises inconsistently for months after- it was often tough motivating myself to do these exercises.
Life in Hell: Learning To Dominate
During the year of 2017, especially the latter, most people would never have guessed that I was in pain.
As a result of the pain, I learned how to not just appear normal but dominate.
It was my only way to stay sane. People often marvel at how I’m recognized on the streets, and how every worker at restaurants & coffee shops know me.
I’m not amazing. This was an adaptation to make living in hell do-able.
When faced with a challenge, you can get better, or get bitter.
I could’ve easily chosen the latter and let life ruin me.
But I chose the former. As I heal now, life seems often like heaven- easy, basic, like a video game.
With perfect health, life really is just a game you can play to win. The strategies to succeed are out there- you just gotta do it.
It’s kind of like learning to function normally with 10lb weights on each of your hands and feet.
If you can learn to live life normally with the extra weight, taking the weights off makes life seem… too easy.. like you’re floating.
The Tipping Point: Dr. John Sarno
By December of 2017, I had tried just about everything in the books. Nothing was sticking long-term.
That’s when somehow I was referred to the late Dr. John Sarno (rest in peace hero, you have saved many lives).
He wrote a book called Healing Back Pain. He focuses on “back pain,” but it applies to almost all types of chronic pain that can’t be linked to a clear, physical cause.
That being said, his research is often shocking: herniated discs for example do not cause physical pain!
The medical community is big on believing that “herniated discs” and other “structural issues” cause chronic pain, when Dr. Sarno’s research indicates otherwise.
It appears that thinking you should be in pain causes the pain itself.
What? That’s crazy, right???
Placebo Surgeries: Most Surgeries are a Joke
I’d like to preface this section by saying that, if provided with a very clear issue, do not not receive surgery.
You follow? This isn’t medical advice. If you or a loved one is suffering, don’t go blabbering about how they don’t need a surgery.
For example, if you get into a motorcycle accident and break your leg, you need surgery to put things back in place.
That’s way different than subtle issue likes herniated discs and other issues researched by John Sarno (please, do your own research).
Anyway, researchers a couple decades ago did something a little unethical…
(You can read about this in “Healing Back Pain” and “Dr. John Sarno’s Top 10 Healing Discoveries” on Amazon)
They divided people that needed surgeries into 2 groups: placebo groups and real surgery groups.
The researchers were curious if their surgeries were actually doing anything, as they were provided with evidence that the surgeries might not even be effective.
What they found is shocking..
People that received Placebo Surgeries recovered BETTER than people that actually received a surgery!
It seems that a sham surgery is more effective than an actual one, that actually affects the region you think to be “injured.”
Source: “Dr. John Sarno’s Top 10 Healing Discoveries.”
Abuse, Suppressed Emotions, and Stress
We all know that stress, all types of abuse, and emotional suppression is not healthy.
But how exactly unhealthy is it?
According to a study mentioned in The Body Keeps The Score (highly recommended), kids emotionally abused are 50x more likely to develop “asthma” than normal kids.
Heal from the abuse, and the “asthma” goes away.
Some books I would highly recommend are: Healing Back Pain (John Sarno) & The Body Keeps The Score (Bessel von Der Kolk).
These books contain the actual scientific studies that back up all of what I’m sharing here.
It seems that emotional abuse, especially during childhood, can have profound affects later in life.
Dr. John Sarno even believed that cancer was caused by suppressed emotional abuse, however in his late age he left it for his associates to share because he was already under attack by mainstream just for suggesting back pain could be caused by emotions.
To the mainstream, this notion is wild. Most people reject it.
This is because the purpose of the physical pain is actually a distraction the individual subconsciously chooses, over dealing with the emotional reality inside of them.
I know for me this is true. At first I was interested and healed a bit from applying what I learned, but I wasn’t healing enough.
So I rejected the hypothesis, went back to physical therapy, and proceeded to have the worst month of my life since I was injured until I reconsidered that maybe it really was suppressed emotions causing all of this.
The Pain IS Real, but Emotional
As I write this, I want to make it very clear that I’m not saying the pain “isn’t real.”
I sure as hell know that the pain… hurts like a bitch. It makes life hell!
That being said, in many cases the pain is emotional in cause.
As more and more research is conducted, more and more diseases are unmasked as direct results of improper nutrition, stress, or suppressed emotions.
The list is long, and frightening.
Arthritis for example could be the bad combination of a bad diet and suppressed negative emotions.
All this being said, if you or a loved one is in pain, you should research Dr. John Sarno, and his associates (such as Steve Ozanich), before coming to any conclusion.
You don’t want to be running around saying “my foot is actually perfectly okay” later to find out you have a stress fracture.
That’s what makes all of this so tricky.
Emotions are tough to measure. Suppressed emotions? Even tougher.
Blowing the Box Wide Open
Back to me now. I was sitting in a chair, thinking that my physical pain was caused by my suppressed emotions, but I just couldn’t put the pieces together.
I thought my childhood was ok, maybe even great!
Oh, I was so wrong…
First, I started looking at the most recent things that my parents had done to me.
For example, after my concussion I was not taken to a doctor immediately until over 1 month after.
Because the little kid inside of me is forced to love my parents, I overlooked just how fucked up that actually is.
I have to give huge credits to my girlfriend. She helped me redefine “normal” and see what “real love” actually is.
We then started looking at texts my mom had sent me- during the month of February, I had “pain flare-ups” immediately following any abusive text message that was sent to me.
I didn’t even realize they were subtly abusive, until my girlfriend pointed it out.
Making the connection that every time I had a pain flare-up the day after a text message sealed the deal.
I realized finally, I have “tension myositis syndrome,” (TMS), which is now referred to as “the mind-body syndrome” (also TMS).
One Flashback, Infinite Hell
As we laid there and broke down my past, and me and my girlfriend broke down how it was actually kinda really fucked up, I got closer and closer to blowing the box open.
We had a huge list of things written down on my phone.
I looked it over, and tried to say, “yes I guess I was always alone, I never really received support.”
As I said those words “receive support,” I felt the physical pain dissipating.
…but it was being replaced with something else… emotional pain!
My voice got stuck. I kept repeating “receive support.”
I couldn’t move. I dropped my phone. I couldn’t speak. My physical pain was gone, but it felt like I was falling deeply.
Reality faded. The last I remember of reality is falling to the ground, and some blurs of me on the ground.
I went back home. And this time, I saw the truth, through my adult eyes.
Physical abuse at school. Emotional abuse at home. Even some sexual abuse…
Almost an hour later, I slowly returned to reality. My girlfriend was amazing, holding my arm and letting the flashback ride itself out.
She is a natural healer, thank goodness she was there for me.
The physical pain was significantly less, but the emotional pain was sky-high.
I couldn’t believe what I saw. Was this actually my childhood?
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
After this, certain that I had TMS (physical pain caused by suppressed emotions), I went to go find some doctors that specialized in this.
I also searched for psychologists.
A few diagnoses later, I realized I had “complex post-traumatic stress disorder,” in addition to post-traumatic stress disorder due to a gay guy trying to sexually assault me.
Thankfully for the PTSD I was able to fight back and escape. So, I never developed that bad of PTSD, and it’s gone away very quickly with my girlfriend by my side.
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder on the other hand is the result of several small (or large) traumas over a long period of time.
You get PTSD if you get raped, for example.
You get CPTSD if you grow up in an abusive family home. The abuses are consistent, unpredictable, and so you always have a subtle sense of fear.
I realized I had this. The book “The Body Keeps the Score” really talks about this shocking reality too many people live in.
The shocking truth is that emotional abuse leads to physiological changes that cause “chronic pain.”
Also, the area of the brain that registers physical or emotional pain is the same. That is, emotional pain activates the same area of the brain that would activate if you stabbed yourself.
So when I got into my snowboarding accident, the suppressed emotional pain in this area found its way to express itself: the body.
The injury provided enough pain to allow the nervous system to use pain signals and create “physical pains” in the body.
Also, according to Dr. John Sarno, lots of physical pain starts by one simply wanting a distraction from the intense emotional pain.
That I understand. In the short-term, my emotional pain is nothing compared to the physical pain.
Releasing the hell of my past is tough, but a little bit of pain isn’t that hard.
Alas, for long-term health, I must bite the bullet and resolve the emotional pain, so I can heal myself fully physically, but also emotionally.
My Past (and Many Others) Explained
The asthma? Young emotional abuse.
Even if your parents don’t intend to, small things they do can affect you.
For example, if your parent was abused, but they haven’t worked on healing themselves, they could randomly be explosive, which would affect you as a kid.
Even if they try, they could still fuck up and pass a bit of pain to you.
Also, the way their genes are working as a result of their abuse gets passed onto you.
Thankfully, you can change the way your genes work.
Note: What I mean is that your “depression” isn’t genetics. If genetically speaking you’re programmed to be depressed, it’s been scientifically prove that you can change that with conscious effort.
The physical abuse, emotional abuse, loneliness, depression, and anxiety, all led to me developing chronic pain.
ADHD, depression, anxiety, and a myriad of emotional and physical issues can all be explained as a result of stress, CPTSD, or even just suppressed emotions.
Dr. John Sarno focuses primarily on suppressed anger, which plays a huge role in it.
If you are angry and hate something (like I hate my parents for things done), but suppress it, it may just later find its way into the body…
Moving Forward: Healing the Body, Damaging the Mind
My physical pain is healing rapidly. The other day I went on a jog and realized my head wasn’t hurting at all.
The emotional pain on the other hand is tough to deal with.
I’m finding I’m never comfortable, always a bit “on edge,” and emotionally always feeling tight.
Thankfully, I’m healing fast. I’m focused only on health.
I bought several books all on the subject and my #1 focus is on healing myself.
My girlfriend is a HUGE inspiration in all of this as well- our relationship is just fantastic, and I’d want to heal fully just to be present with her.
Sometimes I have to release things when it gets bad. New memories are always popping up.
It’s quite a bit frustrating. But, what must be expressed, must be expressed.
I’m noticing my life change in all kinds of different ways.
For example, people that suffer from CPTSD can’t recognize themselves in a mirror.
They know it’s them, but they don’t feel it on a deep level.
Before I started healing, I never understood why people looked at themselves in the mirror on the elevator to my apartment.
Now, I understand. I’ve just started taking more care of myself, and I can’t believe that the eyes looking back at me is “me.”
I don’t know how to explain it. I always knew it was me, but perhaps now I can “feel” it.
Imagine having never realized the person in the mirror was you… but now you see.
That’s the feeling. I’m reconnecting with the body, learning to feel safe, learning to feel love (and what real love actually is), and re-creating a strong, healthy, amazing body.
The Point? Anything is Possible
I’m not sure why I wrote this. I just wanted to write.
This article may not have been the best written, I definitely feel like it was all over the place.
It makes me a bit anxious writing about this as I reflect on my own traumas and abuse, which is why I’m finding it hard to focus.
So, if there were organizational, spelling, or grammar mistakes, I apologize.
Check out Dr. John Sarno and “The Body Keeps the Score.”
The body really does keep the score, whether in the mind, or in the body.
I’ll write more in the future as I figure out what I want to express and how it can help others.
For me, I’m focusing on healing now. Every week is a better week.
Before I was mentally OK, but in horrible physical pain. As my physical pain fades, it turns into emotional pain… but then I can actually release it.
And the new life I’m creating is magical.
I’m free. I’m safe.
And for that, I’m grateful.
I made it.
And perhaps… I had so much drive to travel the world not because I just wanted to see things, but because I wanted to escape.
That I can see now.
Special thanks to all of my amazing friends in Omaha, Phoenix, Montreal, Belgium, London, Sofia, and anywhere else I did not mention that ya’ll currently are.
Most of all to my girlfriend, whom is showing me the light. She is my #1 healer, just for existing.