MBS #25: Jacob’s story: The relationship between OCD and Mind Body syndrome

Written by Dr. Schubiner on August 28, 2009 – 12:29 pm -

The relationship between OCD and MBS: Jacob’s story

 

I have learned so many things about the mind and the body over the past 5 years of working with patients with Mind Body syndrome.  One of the most interesting things is that disorders that we considered psychological, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) actually are similar to (dare I say identical to?) Mind Body syndrome.  In other words, these disorders are caused by patterns of neurological response to stress and emotional reactions to stressful situations.  This leads to two conclusions: 1) that psychological disorders such as these occur as part of MBS and typically are exchanged (substituted) with pain and other typical MBS symptoms and 2) we can treat these disorders effectively using the same methods as we use for MBS. 

 

Read the story of Jacob, who had OCD, which morphed into chronic pain.  He learned that he had to deal with the OCD and the pain, but that they were connected by being components of Mind Body syndrome.

 

“About 10 years ago I had back pain for 2-3 years and read Dr Sarno’s book and also had a MRI which showed no problems and my back pain went away.  A couple years ago when having my second child I started getting high anxiety and really bad obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) about things like locking doors, chemicals around house and just about anything else.  Then about a year ago, I had surgery, and the pain after surgery started going away but lingered and then after taking numerous tests and seeing specialists and searching the internet about why the pain was not going away it started getting worse and worse.  Soon I was taking Vicodin for pain and searching for any cure I could find.  I even tried a pain clinic and had a nerve block which did not work and even made my back hurt for a few weeks (the doctor warned me that it was a possible side effect).  I was getting pretty desperate and depressed.  The pain was nearly unbearable.  I was taking sleeping pills at night to sleep and pain killers during the day. 

  Read more »

Subscribe to my RSS feed

#19–Emotions: What you don’t notice, can hurt you

Written by Dr. Schubiner on January 31, 2009 – 10:51 am -

Emotions, particularly those that are subconscious, were not seriously studied by the scientific community until relatively recently.  For much of the 20th century, psychologists were more interested in studying our conscious awareness and didn’t think that it really mattered what might be going on beneath the surface of consciousness. 

Paul Ekman has gained a great deal of notoriety recently (the new TV show “Lie to Me” is based on his work) and his pioneering work demonstrated that people from all of the different cultures of the world experience and show the same emotions via their facial expressions.  His work is detailed in his book, Emotions Revealed, and is fascinating reading.  Dr. Ekman and others have also conducted research that shows that emotions cause very specific reactions in the body that are distinct.  In other words, emotions are universal and they are indelibly attached to specific physical reactions.  This work has helped to explain why someone may develop back pain when angry and another person may develop headaches.

Another giant in the study of emotions has been Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University.  Dr. LeDoux has done studies to help us understand how emotions are generated and processed in the brain.  His excellent book, The Emotional Brain, details what we know about how the brain handles emotions and we have learned a lot!

We now know that emotions are part of our survival mechanism and are part of the brains of all creatures.  We are hard wired to constantly scan the world around us for danger.  We do this as part of being alive by subconscious brain mechanisms.  When we encounter something that might be dangerous, such as a snake, a menacing look, or a car heading towards us, we instantly react (even before we are truly aware of the danger) in order to avert the danger and save our life.  These reactions are controlled by the amygdala and the autonomic nervous system.  We pick up cues to potential dangers and these nerve signals are instantly transferred to these centers; the amygdala is the center that processes emotions such as fear and anger and the autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls our heart, lungs, bowels, bladder, blood vessels and muscles.  The ANS acts to generate the fight or flight reaction (actually the fight, flight or freeze reaction), which causes our bodies to react to danger.  These systems operate in all creatures on a subconscious basis, meaning we are not consciously aware of these systems.     Read more »

Subscribe to my RSS feed

MBS Blog #18–The role of triggers

Written by on December 21, 2008 – 9:54 pm -

The role of triggers: Holidays and headaches

As the holiday season approaches, I am reminded of the importance of things that trigger MBS symptoms.  I once heard a description of families during the holidays as being, “just the way they are, only more so.”  It is quite obvious that certain events and times of the year can cause stress that is clearly recognized by our conscious minds, for example, “I have so many things to do that I can’t find a moment to relax.”  However, it is also important to realize that stress is often not recognized, and we would call that subconscious stress.  “It seems like I always get sick this time of year, but I don’t know why?”  Symptoms that occur at times like this may be caused by underlying feelings about certain family events, or missing certain family members who are not present, or stressful memories that are associated with the holiday season. 

I see this all the time in my MBS practice.  In fact, one of the most important aspects of successful MBS treatment is the ability of the person with MBS to recognize which triggers are commonly associated with their symptoms, to understand that these triggers are not actually causing the symptoms in a physical sense (more about this point in a moment), and to have the courage to actively overcome these triggers. 

What is the definition of a trigger?   Read more »

Subscribe to my RSS feed

#11–Back pain 101–How modern medicine gets it wrong…

Written by Dr. Schubiner on August 13, 2008 – 10:18 pm -

Conventional “knowledge” tells us that we were not meant to walk upright and that backs typically degenerate over time which leads to chronic back pain.  If back pain was caused by degeneration of the back and the discs between the vertebrae, then it would make sense that back pain would increase with age.  This is not the case however.  Back pain actually drops a bit after age 65.  We have been told that back pain will occur more often in people who use their backs more often.  However, in studies from around the world, more people have back pain in industrialized, modern societies than in rural, agrarian societies. 

 

What is the cause of back pain?  There are several serious medical conditions that can cause back pain, such as a vertebral fracture (usually a compression fracture seen in the elderly or those with osteopenia), cancer of the vertebrae (seen in those with metastatic breast, lung or prostate cancer), serious abdominal conditions such as rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, pancreatic cancer, rupture of a duodenal ulcer, or infections such as osteomyelitis, epidural abscess or diskitis.  Fortunately, these conditons are relatively rare and easy to diagnose with modern imaging techniques (X-ray, CT or MRI). 

  Read more »

Subscribe to my RSS feed