But how can stress cause physical symptoms?
It is important to remember that NEAs are real attacks, even if they are related to how the brain deals with emotions. They can be extremely frightening and cause injuries. They are not "made up", "put on" or "in the mind". It is well known that emotional stress can cause physical reactions in the body.
Below are some examples of every day situations which show how the mind and the body are linked:
- Grief: Losing someone or something you love is very painful. Our bodies go through a range of physical symptoms when we're grieving, most of which are perfectly normal responses to the upset of losing a loved one. The physical symptoms can include physical exhaustion, poor sleep, palpitations, shortness of breath, headaches, recurrent infections, loss of appetite, stomach upsets, change of the menstrual cycle, irritability, worsening of any chronic condition such as eczema or asthma. Some people may imagine that they have heard or seen the person who has passed away.
- Feeling Nervous: Think back to a time when you were anxious or nervous about something; maybe an exam at school or your driving test or having to meet someone under difficult circumstances. Can you remember how you felt? Can you remember the feelings you had in your body? You may have felt hot, or sweaty, or felt yourself going red. You may have had butterflies in your stomach or had shaky hands. You may have had the urge to go to the toilet or have felt sick. All of these are common symptoms of anxiety which most people will recognise. But all of these very real physical symptoms are actually caused by a feeling or emotion.
- Hypnosis: Hypnosis can be used for many reasons. One use of hypnosis is as a form of pain relief or anaesthetic. For example, we know that some people are able to have major surgery under hypnosis, without feeling any pain, even though they have not had any other anaesthetic.
A study recently conducted at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine by Dr Guy Montgomery and his team recruited 200 women to receive either 15 minutes of hypnosis or just a conversation with a psychologist before their surgery for breast cancer. The women undergoing hypnosis were given suggestions for relaxation and pleasant mental images, and instructions on how to use hypnosis themselves. The researchers found that the patients who had received hypnosis needed less anaesthetic than the others, and reported less pain, nausea, fatigue and emotional distress after the operation.
However, even if you understand your attacks and what is causing them, it can still be difficult to explain the attacks to others.
If you would like to read more information about what to do if people don’t believe your diagnosis click here.