Emotions CAN and DO Cause Pain


Here is the basic premise taught to me by Dr. Howard Schubiner…

“Emotional Events cause Physical Events.”

Let me say that again in a slightly different way.

Persistent negative emotions can and do cause physical symptoms.



Simply put – Stress causes physical changes in our bodies.  One of the manifestations of stress, anger and negative emotions is tight muscles.  Tight muscles can go into spasm – causing pain.

Before you go getting all pissed off that I’m telling you the pain is all in your head, I am NOT saying that.


In an MRI, the pain that registers in your brain from TMS shows up in the same part of the brain that pain that pain from physical injury shows up.  MRI’s prove this.  The Pain IS REAL.  It is NOT imagined.

Personally, I know this because I’ve fought back pain for the past 13 years.  And at times, it was the most horrific pain I’ve ever experienced.  I know you are with me on this.   Believe me, I’m not saying you’re crazy.

Look, if you think I’m nuts telling you that emotions can change our bodies, think about these few examples:

  • When you get really nervous – your heart races.  Your palms get sweaty, you get butterflies in your stomach.
  • If someone or something embarrasses you – your face flushes red in an instant.  Emotions cause that change to your body.
  • Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by something that your chest feels heavy, like you can’t breathe?  Or that you might be having a heart attack?  Again, the result of our thoughts and feelings.
  • Have you or someone you know ever experience a panic attack or bout of anxiety?  You can’t breathe, your heart is racing, you think you are going to die.  Nothing wrong with your body, but your emotions make you feel sick.
  • How about this dramatic example.  Passing out!  Perhaps you see blood or experience something that makes you squeamish – you can faint and black out.  A mental event triggered you to faint.
  • And one more for the fun of it.  You see something gross and you throw up.  Yeah, disgusting – but your emotions made you puke.

Again, all these are major changes to your body as a result of emotions.

Despair / Sadness

Despair / Sadness

If all these common things are readily accepted as truth, then why would it be so hard to accept that negative emotions like stress, anger, rage and resentment can result in physical changes to your body and can cause pain?

Instead of the wrongly accused physical abnormalities shown in X-rays or MRI’s, the REAL culprit that causes most pain is a long standing set of emotions, anger, rage, disappointment, perfectionism, never feeling like you are good enough, low self esteem or other negative emotions that drip on you all day – every day.

I read an interesting book recently that said most emotionally induced illnesses are not caused by one huge emotional event.  Most are actually brought on by smaller, but persistent annoyances, feelings and problems.

Fight or Flight?

Let’s take a quick look at why our bodies change as a result of stress and emotions.  Have you heard of the fight or flight response?  It is our bodies way of reacting to danger.

If a lion jumps out of the woods, our body immediately changes.  Our body shuts off unnecessary systems like digestion.  Our heart begins to pump faster pushing more blood to our muscles so they can function quicker and stronger.  When in danger – we will be able to run faster or do things with more strength than ever before.

You’ve heard the stories of women lifting cars off of their children.  Or, perhaps you just narrowly avoided a car accident.  For a few minutes, your entire body shakes.   Remember that feeling?

This is the stress response in action.

Hormones rush our systems. Our adrenal glands pump madly.  Major chemical changes happen instantly.

Yelling at Kids

Yelling at Kids

Here’s the problem.  Emotions like anger, rage, frustration, despair and a whole host of other emotions can all fire off this stress response system.

Repression plays a big part too.  When we put others first on a regular basis, that is infuriating to our inner self.

So, due to day to day thoughts, feelings, emotions, annoyances, frustrations, lousy traffic, screaming kids, a feeling that whatever you do is never enough – we fire off this stress response, but we never actually relax.

When I was in the midst of my worst pain – I probably went years without proactively relaxing.  YEARS without taking a few deep cleansing breaths of air.

Next time you are in pain or all stressed out – force yourself to relax.  Force your body and muscles to let go.  Don’t walk around feeling like you are in a straight jacket.  Take deep breaths.  It can help.

Talk soon…

Dan Buglio

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Comments on Emotions CAN and DO Cause Pain Leave a Comment

August 22, 2009

8:18 pm #

Hi Dan…
You say here in this post that it isn’t one huge event that brings TMS on, it’s smaller, persistent ones…
My husband has come up with a great way to understand it similiar to what you said….He says to think of it like a book, and all those pages…You can handle 100 or 200 pages but when you get to 1000 pages you cannot bear the weight any longer…So you must peel off a page at a time…All those pages are things that happen,feelings,frustrations,etc from our lifetime…

August 29, 2009

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