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Psychosomatic Ailments: Are They Real?

The word “psychosomatic” is so new, only the most recent editions of the popular dictionaries include it. Psychosomatic ailments are those which are physical manifestations of emotional disturbances. Although a psychosomatic ailment results from an emotional disturbance, nevertheless it is a physical disease. Those with this disease are actually suffering from a physical disease and not a mental one.

Are these emotionally caused ailments real? Yes, and the pain they produce is real. Some of the emotions responsible for psychosomatic illnesses are fear, anger, disgust, grief, surprise, yearning, etc.

Dr. John A. Schindler’s fine book How to Live 365 Days a Year, (Prentice-Hall) has a partial list of complaints which suggests that the common things people complain of are often emotionally induced. But any doctor can tell you that most of the uncommon, bizarre symptoms are also caused by emotional troubles.

COMPLAINT                                      PERCENTAGE
Pain in the back of the neck                     75
Lump in the throat                                    90
Ulcer-like pain                                          50
Gall bladder-like pain                               50
Gas                                                          99 44/100
Dizziness                                                  80
Headaches                                               80
Constipation                                             70
Tiredness                                                 90

Since psychosomatic ailments are usually so painful, the average patient would not be satisfied merely to be told his trouble was in the mind. He feels he must have a prescription of some kind. Frequently, in such cases, the doctor will prescribe a placebo, which, as you undoubtedly know, is a pill without any medicinal value at all.

When I lived in New York I was frequently visited by a friend of mine who lived in Pennsylvania. This man suffered from a psychosomatic heart condition. He always carried a small box of pills with him which his doctor had prescribed. Whenever this man would feel a heart spell coming on, he would take one of these pills and in no time at all the pain would leave.

One time when my friend was visiting me, he had one of his heart attacks and when he discovered that he had left his pills at home, he was frantic. He phoned his home and had the pills rushed to him air mail special delivery. As soon as he received the pills and took one, his pain vanished.

I learned that the pills he was taking were nothing but placebos. This illustration proves how the mind can make us ill and also make us well.

A similar case concerns a woman who had had a major operation. At night she complained so much of pain the doctor would give her an injection of morphine to enable her to sleep. Fearing she might become an addict, the doctor attempted to stop the nightly injections, but she would suffer so that the doctor tried an experiment. One night, instead of giving his patient the usual injection of morphine, he filled the syringe with plain warm water and administered that. In just a few moments she was sound asleep.

A New York doctor was having phenomenal results with his patients. Instead of writing prescriptions, he would supply the medicine himself. In nearly every case, this medicine was pills.

On one occasion I went to this doctor’s office with a friend of mine who had a painful ailment. He examined her, then went into a small room to get the remedy. It so happened that the doctor left the door open a crack and from where I was sitting I could see him and exactly what he did.

He took a large box from a shelf, took two small bottles from the box, and filled both bottles with tiny white pills. He labelled one bottle #1 and the other one #2. Upon giving these two bottles to the patient, he gave elaborate instructions as to how the pills should be taken. She should take two pills from bottle #1 three times daily and one pill from bottle #2 twice daily. Although these pills were nothing but compressed sugar they helped because the patient thought they would help. I am not trying to brand this doctor as a faker. Since his “treatments” were helping scores of people, I feel that his deception was fully justified.

One time, in my younger days, I had a rather bad cold and visited my doctor for relief. He gave me a prescription, written in Latin, which I had filled.

The prescription called for a small box of tablets which I should take at prescribed intervals. In taking one of the tablets I noticed that a name had been scratched off it. Examining it closely I observed that the tablet was nothing but a popular brand of aspirin. Of course I was charged $2 for the prescription, whereas if he had told me I needed aspirin, I could have bought a small box of aspirin tablets for 15¢. When I next saw the doctor I asked him why he caused me to spend more money than was necessary.

“If I should tell the average person that all he needed was aspirin, he would not feel like paying for my time in examining him,” the doctor told me.

Please do not misunderstand me; I am not going on a tirade against doctors. If I am casting any reflections at all, I am casting them on members of the public—people just like you and me.


A woman who could not take an ocean voyage without becoming seasick, went to her doctor for a prescription at the time of a trip. She was given a small pill box containing plain sugar tablets. Although the sea was fairly rough she proved to be a good sailor and bragged to her deck companions about her fine doctor.

Isn’t this interesting evidence of the power of mind over matter? Another example comes to mind: There is a couple who visits us quite frequently and during the evening are always served refreshments of some kind. The wife would never touch coffee claiming that if she should drink a cup she would not sleep that night.

One evening, as an experiment, I told this woman she could drink all the coffee she wished because we were serving coffee with the caffeine removed. She drank a cup, then asked for a second one.

The next morning she phoned my wife asking for the brand name of the coffee, stating that it was so good to be able to drink coffee at night and not be kept awake. Of course, the coffee she drank was regular coffee containing the usual amount of caffeine.

An article which appeared in Reader’s Digest told of an experiment tried on a hay fever victim. Artificial flowers of the type which are supposed to affect those suffering from hay fever were brought into his room. Thinking they were genuine flowers, he sneezed continually and his eyes began watering—until he was told of the ruse.


I believe, definitely, that death is often hastened psychosomatically. Most people have so thoroughly accepted the three-score-year and-ten theory that as they approach the age of 70 they think in terms of age. Should they pass 70, they believe they are living on borrowed time. At that age, they think of every ache and pain in terms of age. Their minds actually make them old. I firmly believe that if their minds could be kept off their age, they would live years longer and remain in better health during their lives.

After I passed the age of 70, it was amazing how many people commented on my age. “I hope I can be as young as you are when I am 70,” many of them would say. Naturally, if I were at all susceptible to such thoughts, I would feel old indeed. The truth is that I have so thoroughly erased all age consciousness from my mind, I cannot think of myself as being anything but young. Instead of feeling older as the birthdays roll around, I rejoice that I have lived so many years and feel so young.

The story is told of a psychological experiment carried out on an illiterate laborer. He was in his early 60’s and was showing his age considerably. He was growing old because he thought a man of his age—and especially one who had worked so hard—should be old.

Through some tricky calculation, it was falsely proved to this man that he had mistaken his birth date and that he was ten years younger than he thought he was. In a matter of days this man looked younger and acted younger. He began doing a full day’s work without too much fatigue.

Later he found out he had been tricked and slipped right back to his former aging self.

Blind people who lost their sight early in life will look young longer than those with sight. The reason is further proof of the power of mind over matter. Their minds hold the picture of how they looked the last time they saw their reflection.

One time I visited my home town after having been away from it for over 20 years. During those 20 years, I had carried mental pictures of people as they appeared when I had seen them last. What a change! It took a while before I could adjust myself to seeing them as they were—instead of as they had been.

If it were possible for us to live a few years without seeing our reflections, we would stay younger. As it is, each time we go to the mirror we are not looking for signs of youth, we are examining our faces for further signs of age.

One more story and I’ll complete this chapter on psychosomatic ailments and move on to the next chapter which will show you how to develop a health consciousness.

Mrs. Maria Lewis, a widow in her late 70’s, had lived on the Pacific Coast for many, many years, but her home was in the East.

Maria’s health had been failing and those near her felt she was about to die. Her relatives had always warned her to be careful because of her age. They were continually having her take medicines of all kinds. She did feel old and thought that her day of reckoning was not far away.

Mrs. Lewis’s son, who lived in New York City, came West on a business trip, and decided to do something nice for his aging mother.

He thought it would be fine to take his mother back to New York with him so that she could visit some of her friends of days gone by. The other relatives thought it cruel of this son to take the mother on such a long trip, feeling she could not stand it.

At the railroad station a group of sad looking people came to see this mother and son off, sure it would be the last time they would see her alive.

After the train had pulled out, the son took his mother to her drawing room, and had a very frank talk with her.

“Mother, this is going to be a most healthful trip for you. You will enjoy every minute of it and will get lots of rest. There will be no conversation regarding illness because you will not be ill.”

Before this trip, she had been advised as to everything she should eat and not eat. On the train she ate what appealed to her—and what an appetite she had gained!

In a few days this mother and son arrived in New York, and she was raring to go. She kept her son busy taking her around and not once did she show any ill effects of the journey. To the contrary, she seemed to get better and better day by day.

All good things must come to an end, and eventually Maria Lewis was brought back home. Can you guess what happened? Once again back in the atmosphere of constant reminders of her age and waning strength, it was only a short time before this precious mother was as ailing as she had been before her trip.

I think, in this chapter, I have given enough evidence to prove the reality of psychosomatic ailments.

Although most of this book has been devoted to showing you how unnecessary it is to live in want, I do feel it desirable to include a bit regarding health, because wealth without health will never give happiness.

A health magazine published statistics showing that there was more illness among the rich than among the poor. The reason for this, I believe, is that rich people want to live longer and are always consulting doctors and visiting health resorts. Their minds are kept on illness instead of health.

A poor man, on the other hand, cannot afford all of the expensive treatments and, as a rule, gets none. He keeps his mind on strength because he has to work to make both ends meet.

This last thought is given to you as a warning. You can be rich—and you will be rich if you accept the suggestions in this book.

As your estate grows, let your consciousness of health grow with it.

Visit Grow Rich While You Sleep for more articles from this book by Ben Sweetland.