Raees Sheikh, 48, suffered from giddiness, chest pain for several years. After getting treated and tested for several cardiac and gastric ailments, it was finally diagnosed to be a psychosomatic disorder.
Psychosomatic disorders are illnesses that are caused or aggravated by psychological factors such as stress and anxiety. Doctors said emotional factors contribute to several physical ailments ranging from headaches and bowel disorders to cardiovascular disorders such as strokes.
“I had severe chest pain for many years. I went to many doctors and hospitals spending all my money. I even sold my house to get different treatments and tests,” said Sheikh, who runs a small assembling unit for shoes and bags in Dharavi. After seeking psychiatric treatment for three years now he is cured of all his ailments.
Psychiatrists said the number of such patients has been increasing over the past few years.
“Patient comes to a psychiatrist after trying all other options. Although one cannot rule out physical symptoms, one should watch out for psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression,” said Dr Sajid Khan, consultant psychiatrist at Kohinoor Hospital. He said nearly 20% to 30% of his patients had psychosomatic disorders.
“Unless a patient takes psychiatric treatment the ailment will not go,” said Dr Harish Shetty, who said the disorder is common but not treated in time because of symptomatic treatment.
Sheikh too was reluctant and skeptical about going to a psychiatrist. “When I was told that my heart ailment is related to my mind, I did not believe at all. It was only after the pain subsided that I actually agreed with the psychiatrist,” said Sheikh. He still needs medication and goes to a psychiatrist once every month. He now watches out for symptoms such as aggression and anxiety.
“Doctor-patient communication is very important. If a doctor talks to a patient and takes down his history thoroughly, it is not hard to spot a psychological connection. For example, a patient with breathlessness may have claustrophobia while using the lift and not necessarily a cardiac problem,” said Dr Sanjay Kumavat, superintendent at Thane Mental Hospital.