Common PPD Questions and Answers:
Q: What is a Psychophysiologic Disorder (PPD)?
A: It is a physical illness (such as pain, bowel symptoms, difficulty breathing, muscle aches and many other symptoms) linked to a life stress, typically a stress the person doesn't fully recognize. Diagnostic tests are usually normal in PPD, but accurate diagnosis can be made by uncovering the stress that is causing the illness. Effective treatment options are available.
Q: If the diagnostic tests are normal, what is causing the symptoms?
A: These patients are physically ill usually because of stresses in their lives that are partly or completely hidden. A straightforward way to think about PPD is that when stress is too high, the brain sends nerve signals into one or more parts of the body, causing symptoms. The process is analogous to feeling a "knot" in your stomach when experiencing a tense situation or blushing when embarrassed. The PPD process uses normal nerve pathways and causes no damage so there is no structural or pathological abnormality for diagnostic tests to detect.
Q: What kinds of stress cause symptoms?
A: There are five types of stress that can cause illness: persistent effects of childhood stress, present-day stress, depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety.
Q: How common is it for stress to cause physical symptoms?
A: Studies have shown that over half of the patients seen by primary care doctors have an illness caused by stress.
Q: Are the symptoms caused by stress real or imaginary?
A: The symptoms are real and can be just as severe as those from any other disease. Some patients with PPD are ill enough to be hospitalized.
Q: How does stress that happened in childhood cause illness in adults?
A: Childhood stress can cause adults to lack self-care skills, to suffer mental health problems and to harbor unexpressed, hidden anger about their early mistreatment. These issues (and others derived from low self-esteem in childhood) can result in physical symptoms.
Q: Is good treatment available for stress illness?
A: Effective treatment is available for each of the five types of stress. Most patients can feel much better fairly quickly.