The connection between the mind and the body has started to become more and more popular in Romania in recent years. Many scientific studies, carried out by doctors and psychologists, have revealed over the last 30 years that there is a direct and indisputable connection between mind and body. In the 1990s, the first studies were conducted in England, which were meant to discover how stress in everyday life predisposes to infection with the upper respiratory virus. Well, since then it has been very clear that stressed people had an inhibited immune system that could no longer cope with all the tasks inside the body, ending with a poor defense against pathogens.
It has been studied very intensely, ever since then, in what way an unpleasant emotional state can affect the body. First of all, it must be very clear that the mind and the body cannot be separated. The psychic is a function of the brain, therefore of our body. As we do not separate the other functions of our body, we have no reason to separate the psyche. Every time we have an emotional state our body chemistry changes. By this I mean the hormones that our glands produce when we are in a certain mental state. In times of physical or mental pain, endorphins are secreted to reduce pain, when we are scared, adrenaline and cortisol are produced, when we are happy, serotonin is secreted, when we receive rewards or we are excited, dopamine is secreted and so on. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, reach the bloodstream, the organs and modify the whole body chemistry. Cortisol, for example, has been shown to play a role in inhibiting certain cells in the immune system. This inhibition leads to a delayed or diminished reaction to external pathogens, but also to internal pathogens.
From now on we can talk about more serious disorders than just viruses and colds. When the immune system is no longer doing its job properly the danger of autoimmune diseases and cancer appears. This happens, in the case of cancer, when the immune system no longer eliminates the malignant cells that develop every day in the human body. We all have malignant cells in the body, but a healthy immune system eliminates them and stops their development. When the immune system is inhibited, it can no longer have a proper reaction in front of these cells, allowing them to develop. In the case of autoimmune diseases, Dr. Gabor Mate, from Canada, explains the phenomenon in which a suppressed immune system turns against its own body and becomes an aggressor.
He explained that when we cannot say no, when we cannot set boundaries and we are aggressed by others, all the related emotions, especially the anger that is not directed towards the aggressor in order to push him away, will remain trapped in the body. Many stress hormones will be secreted and they will damage the cells of the immune system, which will attack the body that was supposed to defend.
What affects us very intensely and deeply emotionally will leave marks on our body on the very long term. A quarrel, at one point, with an important person may predispose us to a cold by weakening only the immune system, but a trauma will remain stored in our body until it is healed. Not only does the psyche keep track of traumas, but so does the body. This can be seen through muscle tension but also through numerous diseases, especially chronic ones.
Psychic reactions and functions, all these are consequences of the functioning of the brain. When it was found that we have memories, emotions, that we can be traumatized and so on, it was after researching the physical structures of the brain. Thus, it was found that we have a part named amygdala that is responsible for the reaction to danger, a hippocampus that weighs and adapts to reality the reactions from the amygdala, a frontal cortex responsible for thinking, planning, analysis, critical thinking and so on. Also by this method it was discovered that when we are happy we secrete serotonin and when we are scared we secrete cortisol and adrenaline. The body and the mind cannot be separated in any case. Although in medicine this connection didn’t get much attention, well, over the last 30-50 years, this has changed significantly. Doctors have begun to understand this connection, conduct research on this topic, and resistance to change often comes from the fear of accepting the truth and the fear of the pain and discomfort that come with the truth.
Even the psychological trauma was discovered by observing the parasympathetic nervous system and the action of the vagus nerve, which is in this system, and which has the capacity to produce the “freezing” response, which we often call “playing dead” , only when we are helpless. When a person is in danger and finds that she is completely helpless, this parasympathetic freeze response is triggered automatically, in response to the activation of the vagus nerve, which marks the dissociation in trauma. The moment when person can no longer cope with what is going on then strong dissociation from the reality and from the truth is needed. The parasympathetic nervous system is physically located in the brainstem, which is responsible for survival instincts and physical reactions to emotions, especially physical reactions of fear. When the vagus nerve is activated and responds by freezing, an internal state of permanent tension and stress remains until the healing occurs, which involves a contact of the prefrontal cortex with the amygdala and brainstem, because they have the possibility of communication. The contact oh these parts is meant to make connections, to understand the traumatic event, to truly understand that the event is over now, that the danger is no longer part of the present so that the amygdala can register new, relaxed and reassuring emotional experiences. And also to transmit to the brainstem the safety signal for parasympathetic freeze to be deactivated and for internal recovery and regeneration to be activated.
In conclusion, the neurobiology of psychological functions and reactions shows us that the connection between mind and body cannot be doubted and it is important to understandthat our body keeps the score of all things that happen to us, even if they are purely emotional.