Mind/Body Syndromes

Psychosomatic medicine specifically refers to physical disorders of the mindbody, disorders that may appear to be purely physical, but which have their origin in unconscious emotions…

John Sarno, MD, The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders

Medical pioneer John Sarno has written extensively about mindbody syndromes, which originate in the repression of unconscious emotions1. ISTDP therapy is particularly well suited to addressing mindbody syndromes because the ISTDP therapist uses a very active approach to unlock the emotions that are at the root of these symptoms. Dr. Sarno divides mindbody disorders into two categories: 1) those disorders that are directly induced by unconscious emotions, such as pain problems; and 2) those disorders in which unconscious emotions may play a role in causation, such as certain cardiovascular diseases, but are not the only factor.

Some of the mindbody syndromes that we treat include:

  • chronic pain
  • fibromyalgia
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • migraine and tension headaches
  • acid reflux
  • chronic fatigue
  • ulcers
  • bulimia
  • anorexia nervosa

Many patients suffer for years by pursuing treatment for these syndromes only through traditional medicine. Unfortunately, because these syndromes are so misunderstood, psychotherapy, which has the potential to completely resolve patients’ suffering from these syndromes, is often the treatment of last resort. Cognitive therapies address only conscious thoughts and emotions, and thus lead to, at best, temporary relief from these types of syndromes. Dr. Sarno specifically recommends short-term dynamic psychotherapy for treating mind-body syndromes because it emphasizes actively addressing defenses to uncover repressed emotions3.

Works on mindbody syndromes and ISTDP cited above:

1 Sarno, J. (2007). The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders. New York: Harper.

2 Abbass, A., Kisely, S., Kroenke, K. (2009). Short-term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Somatic Disorders, Psychotherapy and Psychodynamics, 78, 265-274.

3 Sarno, J. (2007). The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders. New York: Harper.


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