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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday's Psychology Tips: Do You Take Your Anxiety Out On Your Stomach, Head or Neck?

Thought for the Day: Today, I chose a question that I answered on HealthTap from someone wondering whether their depression and anxiety could be "residing" in their stomach. I could have inserted multiple other questions about almost every body part you could think of from head, back, heart to chest. The answer would be the same simply inserting different body parts. Although the psychosomatic or influence of our emotional health on our physical health has been proven in multiple studies, it is always necessary to have a physician check to be sure that there is nothing medically wrong with the body part before assuming that it is purely a psychological issue. However, psychotherapy can help. Even if there is a medical problem for which you are being treated, like migraine headaches, reducing the emotional issues may help by reducing the stress you put on that part of your body. Here's my answer with a bit more elaboration than allowed on HealthTap:

Dr. Barbara Lavi answered:
Different people
take out their anxiety on different parts of their bodies. Common figures of speech reflect this tendency, I.e., "it's a pains in the neck," "I need this like a hole in the head," "It gives me heartache." In your case, "It makes my stomach turn."
You may take things out on your stomach. In therapy it is a good idea to learn to relax and pay special attention to the part of the body that you tend to focus anxiety on.

There are many ways in therapy to help people stop taking their anxiety our on their body. Here are two options. Simple behavior modification techniques, with no delving into your past may be enough to turn things around. These techniques would entail teaching yourself to relax the part of the body that you tend to stress when you are anxious.

If these behavioral approaches are not enough, you could take a more insight oriented approach. Using this approach you would try to understand what led to choosing the specific part of the body. This would involve looking back to earlier in your life to see how it started. For example: Did you get headaches in school when you worried about having a teacher ask you to read out loud? Did another child make fun of you when you did? If so, doing some work on how you felt back then may help you stop taking things out on your head.

You do not have to keep hurting your body. Speak to a therapist and learn alternative ways to handle your emotions.

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