Medical Issues and
Medically Unexplained Symptoms
Chronic or acute illnesses, surgeries, medical emergencies, and acute or chronic pain can cause many residual traumas both physically and emotionally. Living with untreated traumatic experiences can also affect the immune system and result in other medical symptoms. The medical field sometimes is challenged by medically unexplained symptoms, leaving patients feeling blamed and hopeless. These types of experiences can also cause psychological distress, including depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress symptoms. Patients may come to believe they are defective, that their medical issues are their fault. They may feel powerless or having no control over their body or their care, all of which can limit one’s quality of life.
Medical symptoms in adulthood have high correlation with childhood abuse and neglect. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study found childhood stressors, abuse and neglect are strongly related to the development and prevalence of disease throughout the lifespan (Felitti & Anda). Eye Movement Desensitizing Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), in combination with body-oriented psychotherapies and coordination with medical providers, is effective in reducing and at times, eliminating symptoms. In my experience, EMDR Therapy allows adaptive information processing to be activated within the mind and body. When the emotional and psychological distress is resolved, the body experiences a decrease in distress often resulting in a lessening of symptoms. When symptoms correlate with traumatic events, if the trauma is resolved, the physical symptoms can be eliminated. If pain or illness is chronic, an integrative approach using EMDR Therapy can assist in adapting to the condition, dealing more realistically and constructively to these health issues, and assist in developing positive and hopeful approaches to life stressors.