Health & Fitness

18 Deceiving Pains We Feel That Are Psychological, Not Physical


We live in an era of so much uncertainty. From economic inflation and recession to social unrest and personal struggles, it seems there is always something to be anxious about.

Thankfully, we can listen to our bodies and be attuned to how external and internal issues affect us personally. If you’re having difficulty figuring out your negative feelings, staying aware of how our bodies are doing is key.

Here are some ways psychological distress can manifest in our bodies:

Muscle Tension and Pain

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Psychological distress often leads to heightened muscle tension as a physical manifestation.

This tension can result in chronic headaches, backaches, and jaw pain. Stress-induced muscle contractions may occur even without conscious awareness, exacerbating discomfort.

Gastrointestinal Issues


Anxiety and stress can wreak havoc on the digestive system, leading to symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, or constipation. The gut-brain connection plays a significant role, as stress can alter gut motility and increase sensitivity to digestive discomfort.

These symptoms can further contribute to feelings of unease and exacerbate psychological distress.

Cardiovascular Symptoms

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High levels of stress hormones like cortisol can impact cardiovascular health, leading to symptoms such as palpitations, chest pain, or an increased heart rate. Chronic stress is associated with hypertension and can contribute to the development of heart disease over time.

Individuals experiencing psychological distress may perceive these physical symptoms as signs of impending danger, further exacerbating their anxiety.

Respiratory Issues

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Stress and anxiety often manifest physically in the form of respiratory symptoms like shortness of breath, hyperventilation, or even asthma attacks.

Psychological distress can trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response, leading to rapid breathing patterns and a sensation of suffocation. These symptoms can be particularly distressing for individuals already predisposed to respiratory conditions.

Dermatological Conditions

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Psychological distress can manifest on the skin, exacerbating conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or acne. Stress hormones can stimulate oil production and exacerbate inflammation, leading to flare-ups or worsening skin conditions that are already present.

Additionally, stress-related scratching or picking can further aggravate skin irritation and prolong healing.

Sleep Disturbances


Mental health struggles often disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or restless sleep. Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep can exacerbate feelings of fatigue and irritability, further impacting overall well-being.

Sleep disturbances can perpetuate a cycle of psychological distress, as inadequate rest impairs cognitive function and emotional regulation.

Immune System Dysfunction

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Prolonged psychological distress can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Stress hormones suppress immune function, making it harder for the body to fight pathogens.

Frequent illnesses can further exacerbate feelings of fatigue and malaise, contributing to a vicious cycle of physical and psychological distress.

Sexual Dysfunction

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Psychological distress can significantly impact sexual health, leading to symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, or difficulty achieving orgasm.

Stress and anxiety can interfere with hormonal balance and affect blood flow to the genital region, contributing to sexual dysfunction. Relationship issues stemming from psychological distress can also exacerbate sexual problems.

Chronic Fatigue


Persistent psychological distress can result in chronic fatigue syndrome, characterized by profound exhaustion that isn’t alleviated by rest. Individuals with chronic fatigue often experience physical symptoms such as muscle pain, headaches, and impaired cognitive function.

The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unclear, but it’s believed to involve a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Headaches and Migraines

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Stress and tension are common triggers for headaches and migraines, which can vary in intensity from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. Psychological distress can exacerbate muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, contributing to tension headaches.

Moreover, stress-related changes in neurotransmitter levels may trigger migraine attacks in susceptible individuals.

Joint Pain

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Psychological distress can exacerbate inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, leading to increased joint pain and stiffness. Stress hormones like cortisol can exacerbate inflammation in the joints, worsening symptoms.

Also, stress-related heightened muscle tension and altered movement patterns can contribute to joint pain and discomfort.

Tingling or Numbness

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Psychological distress can manifest as physical sensations like tingling or numbness, often due to hyperventilation or heightened arousal of the nervous system. These sensations may occur in the hands, feet, or other parts of the body and can be alarming for individuals experiencing them.

Addressing the underlying psychological factors is essential in alleviating these physical symptoms.

Dizziness and Vertigo

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Anxiety and stress can cause dizziness or feelings of lightheadedness, often due to hyperventilation or changes in blood pressure. Psychological distress can also trigger episodes of vertigo, characterized by a sensation of spinning or instability.

These symptoms can be disruptive and distressing, further exacerbating psychological distress in affected individuals.

Blurred Vision

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Stress and anxiety can affect vision, leading to symptoms such as blurred vision or difficulty focusing. Muscle tension in the neck and shoulders can contribute to eye strain, exacerbating visual disturbances.

Furthermore, stress-induced changes in blood flow to the eyes can affect visual perception, further impacting overall well-being.

Hypersensitivity to Pain

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Psychological distress can heighten sensitivity to pain, making individuals more susceptible to physical discomfort. This phenomenon, known as hyperalgesia, involves an amplification of pain signals in the nervous system.

Heightened stress levels can lower pain thresholds, leading to increased sensitivity to stimuli that wouldn’t typically cause discomfort.

Tremors and Shaking

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Anxiety and stress can manifest physically as tremors or shaking, particularly in the hands or limbs. These involuntary movements are often a result of heightened arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, which governs the body’s fight-or-flight response.

Stress-inducing situations can exacerbate tremors and may subside once the individual feels calmer.

Jaw Clenching and TMJ Dysfunction

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Psychological distress can contribute to jaw clenching and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, leading to symptoms like jaw pain, clicking or popping noises, and difficulty opening or closing the mouth.

Stress-induced muscle tension in the jaw and facial muscles can exacerbate these symptoms, causing discomfort and impairing oral function.

Hair Loss

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Chronic stress can lead to hair loss or exacerbate conditions such as alopecia areata, resulting in patches of baldness on the scalp or elsewhere on the body. Stress hormones can disrupt the hair growth cycle, leading to premature shedding or thinning of the hair.

Addressing the underlying psychological factors contributing to stress is essential in managing hair loss and promoting overall well-being.