Our bodies are constantly reacting to mental stimulation. When reliving the winning goal you made in the hockey game, your face might flush, heart race, and muscles tense. A child who is being bullied at school might feel sick every morning before leaving home. A passionate kiss in the movies might make your own lips tingle. These are examples of psychosomatic reactions: physical reactions to mental or emotional symptoms. Sometimes a person's psychosomatic reaction to mental stress may be so severe that it causes a debilitating disorder. For example, Kevin sometimes still has trouble believing his leg is truly gone. He has strange sensations that he cannot account for. Some are unpleasant, like the constant itching where he no longer has a place to itch. Others are nice surprises, like when he can feel his cat brushing against where his leg should be. The worst, however, is the pain. For the all other inexplicable feelings that come and go, the pain never leaves Kevin's body or mind. Sometimes in the dark quiet of his bedroom, he has nightmares in which he relives stepping on the land mine. Only in his nightmares, everything happens in slow motion. He can see his leg tearing away from his body. He reaches forward, grabbing for his leg, and the excruciating pain wakes him up. He lies, panting in the darkness, trying to will the pain away, asking himself, "How can something that doesn't even exist hurt so badly?" How can doctors treat the pain and illness in the body that are caused by the mind? In this book, you will learn more about Kevin's story, what psychosomatic disorders are, how these "phantom" disorders can be treated.
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