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Page Contents: When you develop physiological symptoms when starting to remember painful memories from the past.                    


I have been going to therapy once a week for approximately four months. I had an emotionally neglectful and abusing mother and an almost absent father. Because of this I don’t seem to be in touch with my emotions. I also suffer from depression and anxiety. I feel I have a fantastic therapist and am getting into some deep and painful childhood memories. My therapist said recently that I am starting to feel emotions.

Lately I have been experiencing odd health issues, like dermatitis, twitching muscles and opportunistic infections which, as my doctor advised, is most probably due to stress.

Is it common to experience physiological symptoms when starting to remember painful memories from the past?

I wouldn’t say that it’s “common,” but, yes, physiological symptoms can be activated by unconscious reactions to psychotherapy.

On the other hand, physiological symptoms can just as well be resolved by reactions to psychotherapy. I once had a client who could not drink cold water; the mere thought of cold water provoked a terrible anxiety in her. During the course of the treatment, she remembered a time when her abusive mother held her head under the faucet in the kitchen sink, with the cold water running—almost drowning her—as a “punishment” for something. Once that memory was therapeutically examined, she spontaneously became free of her aversion to drinking cold water.

This all goes to show how subtly the mind and the body are interconnected. It also points to the fact that competent psychotherapy can often be more effective than psychiatric medication.

Therefore, trust that your unconscious is revealing itself in this way for a good reason; if you persevere in the psychotherapeutic work of understanding the meaning of those physiological symptoms, you can expect that the symptoms will resolve.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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