Eli5- How can the brain make you think you’re sick?

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I’m sure we have all heard of munchausin syndrome and I’ve always been curious. How does the brain and their thoughts make them physically sick? I’m not talking about people who take things to make them sick or pretend to feel sick, I’m talking about those who believe they are sick so strongly that they get the physical symptoms. People who get so sick with the fake illness that it can affect their lives.

In: Biology

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Anonymous 0 Comments

Nobody actually knows. This type of illness is basically: sick with symptoms and no known cause, so it is presumed to have a mental component causing it.

However, there are some doctors who believe the actual answer is this:

” In the days of the Malleus, if the physician could find no evidence of natural illness, he was expected to find evidence of witchcraft: today, if he cannot diagnose organic illness, he is expected to diagnose mental illness.” (Thomas Szasz, a well known psychiatrist who wrote on topics like psychiatry and its influence on medicine)

Or basically, that there may be a lot of diseases, conditions, disorders, etc… that are being misdiagnosed as psychosomatic, when it’s just the doctor not being able to diagnose it and not wanting to say, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong.’

In various surveys of people with auto-immune disorders and rare disorders, usually over half of them had one or more doctors tell them that their physical symptoms were caused by anxiety or stress (psychosomatic) rather than a physical illness, before they were finally diagnosed.

This bias may be made worse by the fact that many auto-immune disorders and rare disorders ARE made worse by stress, so at first, treating stress will make symptoms improve, in many cases, but will cease to work years later as the disease/disorder progresses.

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