Long COVID may lead to an overhaul of the term 'psychosomatic'
May 02, 2023, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
The Globe and Mail published an interesting article this month highlighting the knock-on effects of COVID illness. This opinion piece "Long COVID highlights why we need to overhaul the term ‘psychosomatic" .
The new research cited has led to a deeper understanding of the brain. It has begun to shed light on the many cases of long COVID and may provide validation for many suffering who have been led to believe their symptoms are 'all in the head'.
"Many cases of long COVID have been associated with signs of illness that are difficult to observe. Patients are often struck by persistent fatigue and difficulty concentrating (commonly known as “brain fog”), along with other non-specific ailments including palpitations, dizziness, headache, insomnia, and mood dysregulation. This constellation of symptoms is non-specific and common to other distressing syndromes and chronic illnesses from across the medical spectrum. Patients who are suffering debilitating symptoms in the absence of verifiable, objective signs of illness can understandably feel insulted and/or dismissed when doctors suggest their condition may be “psychosomatic” (traditionally viewed, too simplistically, as a physical ailment caused by mental distress as opposed to a physical condition.)
Newer research and a better understanding of brain circuitry has revealed a much more complex explanation – one that sufferers are likely to find far more validating. We now understand that a wide range of symptoms can be produced by biologically based abnormalities in the function, rather than the structure, of the brain. You might think of this as a problem of “software” rather than “hardware.” Software, or functional, changes in the brain can have many real impacts on the body’s hormonal, metabolic and immune-system functioning.
...Since the act of anticipating what an illness might feel like can quickly and powerfully influence our brain’s function, it’s possible that in some cases, long COVID sufferers are experiencing symptoms due to brain-circuit changes caused by expectations. When patients report having these symptoms, they really are experiencing them, as these mechanisms are far more potent and neurologically based than “imagining” a non-existent perception. In fact, it’s crucial to note that the brain’s perception of sensation based on expectations is just as real as the brain’s perception of sensation based on input from the senses. Notice as well that we are not talking here about a mental disorder – we are talking about a normal and universal human trait. Every one of us is vulnerable to this phenomenon. There are a great many quirks of human behaviour that are explained by the ways in which expectations shape perceptions, and in a subset of long COVID patients, such mechanisms could be at play.
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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit www.deutschmannlaw.com or call us at 1-519-742-7774.