Many common physical health problems have psychological components. Anxiety, depression, and stress around family issues, work, trauma, or other events are not just symptoms of mental health issues but can create or exacerbate physical symptoms.
Among the conditions where research has shown there can be underlying psychological issues are
- Chronic Pain
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Sexual Performance
- Wound Healing
Examples may help in understanding how psychological techniques help diminish uncomfortable physical symptoms. Many forms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome which is a common disorder affecting the large intestine with symptoms of cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation) are strongly associated with anxiety. For example, a client with IBS found that they could not go out to social events because they feared an 'episode" and not having easy access to a bathroom. A combination of hypnosis, EMDR, and mindfulness practice reduced this anxiety as well as the IBS episodes with the associated need to be near a bathroom. The client then enjoyed a fuller social life with friends.
Another client with chronic headaches coming from depression and anxiety arising out of workplace problems, combined Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Hypnosis, EMDR and Mindfulness to reduce the depression and anxiety arising from a powerful "inner critic." By developing more flexible coping skills and lowering the intensity of the "inner critic" by focusing on what was actually happening in the present without judgment or expectation, the client's stress and depression decreased, along with a drop in the number and intensity of headaches. The client was able to solidify these skills through self-hypnosis.
One last example is of a client who had sexual performance problems. These problems stemmed from a combination of sexual trauma from childhood, expectations about what performance should be like, leading to constant feelings of failure, and unhelpful feedback from the client's partner. EMDR was useful in reducing the effects of the childhood trauma on the client's sexual performance. CBT and hypnosis were used to eliminate the client's expectations of performance, opening the way to more flexible behaviors as well as ending the constant sense of failure. These, along with CBT on how to work with his spouse helped the client gradually achieve a satisfactory level of sexual performance.