Somatization is the process by which mental and emotional stresses become physical in the form of psychosomatic illnesses. Some experts believe that, as stresses play on the body, the weakest or most prone system becomes the likely target for this. Others believe the area affected by somatization has a direct relationship to the nature of the negative thought patterns through mind/body relationships not yet fully understood.
While psychosomatic illnesses can come and go depending on a person’s ability to handle stress, somatization often becomes a built-in pattern that results in chronic aches and pains or lingering diseases without biological cause. The mind/body relationship transfers highly negative or unhealthy thinking patterns into physical illness. When this occurs, there is no other medical explanation for the illness.
Hypochondriacs, or those who perpetually believe they suffer from diseases far worse than their symptoms or prognosis indicates, display mindsets conducive to chronic somatization. Virtually all phobias are caused by "physically ingesting" extreme stresses based around a specific activity or object. Ulcers, backaches, irritable bowel syndrome, panic attacks and tension headaches are some other examples of illnesses the body can produce through somatization of emotional and mental stresses. An unfortunate result of having a history of benign psychosomatic illnesses is that a medical professional might begin to assume after a while that new aches, pains, and complaints are the result of this process. He or she might fail to order the tests necessary to rule out other causes.
Somatization can be controlled by the patient learning to handle mental and emotional stresses more skillfully. This ideally involves cognitive behavioral therapy through self-analysis of one form or another. If it only occurs occasionally, symptoms of psychosomatic illness will subside on their own as stress levels fall back to normal.
Though not completely understood, somatization presents a clear argument that the mind and body share a close, intertwined relationship. While psychosomatic illnesses have their roots in mental and emotional stresses, they are real illnesses that require treatment. In cases of chronic somatization, both medical treatment and successful psychological treatment are necessary for lasting results.