Mind-Body Connection

Mothers experience increased stress levels following disclosure of a child's sexual abuse and often become ill or develop disease symptoms during the post-disclosure period. Many consider the news that a child has been abused to be a traumatic  event. Mothers may experience posttraumatic symptoms, and some mothers are diagnosed with PTSD. Individuals with PTSD generally have more physical symptoms and increased rates of chronic illness. Trauma, PTSD, dissociation, and physical health are related. Dissociation, a coping mechanism to avoid trauma pain, actually results in a disconnect between the mind and body as the individual prevents painful thoughts and emotions from entering consciousness. Pain symptoms are then displayed in the body. The individual often does not connect these symptoms to underlying emotional pain or untreated trauma. 

The mind and body are inseparably connected, and complicated interactions take place among thoughts, emotions, and the physical body. This connection between the mind and body explains why stress results in physical illness. Stress-related symptoms result in more than 50% of physician visits, and stress is a significant contributor to diagnoses such as cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and chronic pain(Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine, 2008). Many functional or chronic disorders are made worse by lifestyle choices, situational stress, and psychological and social factors. Research has shown mind-body interventions, particularly meditation, to improve many stress-related illnesses. Examples are heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, headaches, gastrointestinal disease, allergies,  insomnia, Lupus, fibromyalgia, and many other medical diagnoses. As patients learn to reduce stress and change their lifestyles, stress hormone activity decreases, immune function increases, and healing occurs in both mind and body.

The mind-body connection has important implications for treatment of illness and disease. Physical health is influenced by thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by physical symptoms. Mind-body medicine teaches individuals how to cope with stress and other negative thoughts and behaviors in order to maintain or regain their health. Stress management, nutrition, exercisemeditation practices, breathing, and other lifestyle changes improve physical and mental health and result in a sense of wholeness and well-being. The word "health" actually comes from the root word for "whole" or "one." Health can be viewed as a state of physical, psychological, and social well-being rather than the absence of disease.   



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