THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION: REPRESSED EMOTIONS AND STRESS

Our mental health conversation series is back with a revealing look at the impact repressed emotions and stress are having on our bodies. There is still so much the medical community is learning about the connection between the mind and the body, and powerful new evidence shows that repression could contribute to chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, migraines and persistent pain. We’ll also examine the effect of stress on the healing process with two experts in their respective fields: Dr. Samuel Mann, a nationally-known hypertension specialist and author of the new book, “Hidden Within Us: A Radical New Understanding of the Mind-Body Connection,” and Dr. Jonathan Phillips, medical director and sports medicine physician at Performance Health, a leading provider in the tri-state area.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I AM JACK FORD.

TONIGHT, OUR MENTAL HEALTH CONVERSATION SERIES IS BACK WITH A REVEALING LOOK THAT REPRESSED EMOTIONS AND STRESS CAN HAVE ON OUR BODIES.

POWERFUL EVIDENCE FROM ONE OF OUR GUESTS SHOWS REPRESSION CAN RESULT IN CHRONIC CONDITIONS, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, MIGRAINES AND PERSISTENT PAIN.

TONIGHT WE'LL ALSO EXAMINE THE IMPACT STRESS HAS ON THE BODY AND HEALING PROCESS FROM OUR NERVES AND MUSCLES TO OUR OVERALL WELL BEING, AND WHAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO ABOUT IT.

SO LET'S WELCOME TWO LEADERS IN THEIR RESPECTIVE FIELDS AS THEY JOIN US HERE IN OUR CONVERSATION.

FIRST, DR. SAMUEL MANN IS A NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED HYPERTENSION SPECIALIST AND PROFESSOR AT CORNELL MEDICAL COLLEGE AND NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL.

HE'S THE AUTHOR OF THE NEW BOOK 'HIDDEN WITHIN US', A RADICAL UNDERSTANDING OF MIND/BODY CONNECTION.

AND WE'RE DELIGHTED TO HAVE WITH US DR. JONATHAN PHILLIPS, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF SPORTS MEDICINE AT PERFORMANCE HEALTH.

SO, GENTLEMAN, WELCOME TO YOU.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

I'M GOING TO ASK BOTH OF YOU START WITH A SIMILAR QUESTION HERE.

DR. MANN, LET ME START WITH YOU, IF I MIGHT.

WHAT LED TO YOU FOCUS ON THIS MIND/BODY CONNECTION AND TAKING A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO MEDICINE AS A RESULT?

MY SPECIALTY IS HYPERTENSION WHICH PROBABLY HAS HAD MORE MIND/BODY RESEARCH.

EVERYBODY THOUGHT IT WAS A MIND/BODY DISORDER.

WHAT I FOUND OUT IN 80% OR MORE IT IS NOT A MIND/BODY DISORDER.

HOWEVER -- AND HYPERTENSION MAY BE A VERY GOOD CONDITION FROM WHICH TO LEARN -- I FOUND THAT WHEN IT IS A MIND/BODY DISORDER, IT WAS VERY DIFFERENT THAN I HAD SUSPECTED AND THAT EVERY SUSPECTS.

AND IT'S A --

DIFFERENT HOW?

DIFFERENT HOW?

DIFFERENT IN THE SENSE THAT THE EMOTIONS INVOLVED WERE EMOTIONS PEOPLE WERE NOT AWARE OF, WHICH WAS A SURPRISE TO THEM AND A SURPRISE TO ME.

AND ONE TYPE OF HYPERTENSION IN PARTICULAR, WHICH WAS FASCINATING.

PEOPLE GET SUDDEN EPISODES OF SEVERE BLOOD PRESSURE ELEVATION OUT OF NOWHERE, NOT RELATED TO CURRENT STRESS.

NOBODY KNEW THE CAUSE.

NOBODY KNEW HOW TO TREAT IT.

AND A COUPLE OF OBSERVATIONS BY THEMSELVES MADE IT SO CLEAR, AND IT JUST LED ME TO LOOK AT IT FURTHER IN HYPERTENSION AND MANY OTHER MEDICAL CONDITIONS.

AND I CAN GIVE YOU A VERY BRIEFCASE OF A PATIENT THAT MAKES IT SO CLEAR.

YEAH, GO AHEAD.

GO AHEAD AND DO THAT TO HELP US UNDERSTAND.

THE PATIENT HAVING YEARS OF THESE EPISODES, MANY OF THEM LEADING TO EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS, HOSPITALIZATIONS, NO EFFECTIVE TREATMENT, NO EXPLANATION, NO CURRENT STRESS, AND I'M TAKING HIS HISTORY -- HE WAS A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR.

CAN'T HAVE ANYTHING WORSE THAN THAT.

NOW, WHEN I SUGGESTED, I WONDER IF IT'S RELATED TO THAT?

AND HE SAID FIRMLY, NO, THAT WAS DECADES AGO.

AND IT NEVER AFFECTED ME EMOTIONALLY.

AND THAT WAS AN A-HA MOMENT.

THAT'S HOW HE SURVIVED.

THE POINT I WANT TO MAKE IS REPRESSION IS NOT PSYCHOPATHOLOGY.

REPRESSION IS ONE OF OUR MOST POWERFUL DEFENSES AGAINST OVERWHELMING STRESS, AND NOBODY REALIZES IT.

I WANT TO GET TO THAT IN A MINUTE I'VE SEEN YOU ESSENTIALLY SAYING REPRESSION CAN BE A GIFT IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES.

I'LL COME TO YOU ABOUT THAT AND HOW WE DEAL WITH THAT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN.

DR. PHILLIPS, SIMILAR QUESTION TO YOU ABOUT YOUR FOCUS ON THE IMPACT THAT STRESS CAN HAVE ON OUR ABILITY TO HEAL.

HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

WELL, A LOT OF MY PATIENTS WOULD HAVE AN AILMENT, AND USUALLY THEY WOULD COME TO ME AFTER SEEING ABOUT THREE OR FOUR DIFFERENT PHYSICIANS.

SOME OF THEM SIMPLY MUSCULO SKELETAL OTHERS -- OVERALL SOCIETY OR SOCIETAL BEING, INCLUDING THEIR JOBS, FAMILY LIFE, ET CETERA, AND WITH A LOT OF THAT, WHAT I FOUND WAS PATIENTS WEREN'T JUST GETTING BETTER BY, LET'S SAY, TREATING THEIR SHOULDER.

IT MATTERED WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON IN THE BODY AND THEIR LIVES.

SO, THE MORE THEY UNDERSTOOD WHAT WAS HAPPENING WITH THEM, WITH THEIR SHOULDER, FOR EXAMPLE, OR WITH ANOTHER BODY PART, AND HOW IT WAS RELATED, THE EASIER IT WAS FOR THEM TO GET THROUGH NOT ONLY THINGS LIKE PHYSICAL THERAPY OR MODELTIES WE HAVE NOW, SURGICAL INTERVENTION, THAT HEALING TIME GOT CUT DOWN QUITE A BIT.

AND ALONG WITH OUR USE OF SOME REGENERATIVE THERAPIES, FOLKS ENDED UP GETTING BETTER A LOT FASTER.

LET ME ASK YOU A FOLLOW-UP ON THAT THOUGHT FOR A SECOND, ON THE NOTION OF HEALING.

AFTER THESE PROBLEMS.

WE WERE TALKING BEFORE WE GOT ON THE AIR HERE.

I HAD IN THE LAST 40 SOME YEARS, 14 ORTHOPEDIC SURGERIES I PLAYED FOOTBALL IN COLLEGE.

IT WAS WONDERFUL.

GOT ME THROUGH COLLEGE AND I LOVED EVERY MOMENT OF IT.

I'D DO IT AGAIN IN A HEART BEAT.

BUT I LOOK AT THE APPROACHES.

FIRST SHOULDER SURGERY WAS BACK IN THE MID 70s.

I HAVE HAD A BUNCH ON BOTH.

I HAD A KNEE REPLACED 12 YEARS AGO AND MAJOR SPINE SURGERY FOR FOUR DISKS TO BE FUSED FOUR YEARS AGO.

WHEN I LOOK AT THE DIFFERENCES IN THE APPROACHES TO THE HEALING PROCESS -- NOT JUST THE STRICTLY MEDICAL APPROACHES WHERE THEY USED TO STRAP YOUR ARM TO YOUR SIDE AND YOU DO NOTHING WITH IT -- AND WE KNOW NOW THAT'S THE WORST POSSIBLE THING TO DO.

I'M GOING TO ASK YOU THE SAME QUESTION, BUT DR. PHILLIPS, YOU FIRST.

SOME PEOPLE THINK THERE'S A RELUCTANCE ON THE PART OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION TO EMBRACE THESE CHANGES QUICKLY.

IN YOUR AREA, DR. PHILLIPS, ARE YOU SEEING THE PROFESSION HAVING A MUCH MORE WILLINGNESS TO SAY, OKAY, LET'S NOT JUST TALK ABOUT THE PHYSICAL HEALING.

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE MENTAL PROCESS, TOO?

I THINK IT'S STILL VERY MUCH SEGMENTED.

HOWEVER, THERE IS A LOT MORE ACCEPTANCE IN THAT REALM.

I'LL GIVE YOU A SPORTS EXAMPLE.

SO WE TAKE CARE OF A LOT OF NFL FOLKS AND MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL FOLKS, AND IN THAT REALM, THOSE FOLKS ARE USING THEIR BODIES FOR THEIR JOB.

THEY'RE NOT USING A COMPUTER.

THEY'RE NOT PUSHING PAPER.

THEY'RE USING THEIR BODIES.

SO, WHEN THEY HAVE AN INJURY AND THEY'RE TAKEN OUT OF THEIR PLACE OF GROWTH OR EARNING, THERE'S A LOT OF STRESS THAT GOES ALONG WITH THAT.

OUR KEY IS MAKING SURE WE CHANGE THEIR FOCUS NOT TO, OKAY, YOU HAVE AN INJURY, WE NEED TO HEAL IT.

BUT TO, HEY, LISTEN, YOU HAVE A NEW GAME NOW THAT YOU'RE PLAYING.

IT'S CALLED RECOVERY.

AND THIS IS WHERE YOU START, AND THESE ARE THE STEPS FOR RECOVERY.

SO TAKING THE FOCUS AWAY FROM THE STRESSFUL SITUATION OF THEM BEING INJURED AND NOT PLAYING AND FOCUSING IT ON THEIR ACTUAL HEALING PROCESS.

AND THAT'S HELPED A TON OF ATHLETES GET BETTER QUITE A BIT FASTER WITH SORT OF MINIMAL STRESS AND EVEN, ACTUALLY, IMPROVED PERFORMANCE THROUGHOUT.

DR. MANN, HOW ABOUT YOU?

WHEN YOU'RE TALKING, YOU EXPLAIN TO US HOW THIS NOTION HAS EMERGED IN TERMS OF MIND BODY CONNECTION AND DEALING WITH HYPERTENSION AND OTHER DISEASES.

ARE YOU SEEING KIND OF A WILLINGNESS ON THE PART OF THE PROFESSION TO EMBRACE THIS?

OR IS THERE A CAUTION THERE ALSO?

FIRST I HAVE TO SAY THAT THIS IS A VERY NEW UNDERSTANDING, AND IT'S REALLY NOT OUT THERE AT ALL AS OPPOSED TO THE STANDARD OF STRESS AND ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION CAUSED ILLNESS, AND THAT HAS NOT LED TO MUCH HEALTH IN MANAGING MEDICAL ILLNESSES.

THIS IS DIFFERENT.

AND IT IS SO NECESSARY.

I SEE PATIENTS SOMETIMES WHO HAVE CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME.

IF YOU LOOK AT THE MEDICAL LITERATURE, NOBODY KNOWS WHAT CAUSES IT.

NOBODY KNOWS HOW TO TREAT IT.

I FIND MOST OF THOSE PATIENTS HAVE A STORY.

AND ONE THING I EMPHASIZE TO THOSE PATIENTS IS THAT REPRESSION, AGAIN, IS A GIFT.

IT ENABLED THEM TO GET THROUGH ROUGH STUFF --

EXPLAIN THAT A LITTLE BIT MORE FOR US.

BECAUSE YOU MENTIONED THAT, AND I THINK THAT'S IMPORTANT WHEN YOU SAY IT'S A GIFT, AND ON THE OTHER HAND YOU SAY HOW IT CAN BE DAMAGING TO US.

RIGHT.

IT'S A GIFT IN THAT WHEN WE'RE FACING POTENTIALLY OVERWHELMING STRESS -- AND WE DON'T EVEN KNOW IF WE'RE GOING TO SURVIVE PHYSICALLY OR EMOTIONALLY, BEING ABLE TO REPRESS -- AND WE DON'T CONSCIOUSLY REPRESS.

IT'S AN UNCONSCIOUS PROCESS, AND IT ENABLES US TO GET THROUGH THAT PERIOD WITHOUT FALLING APART.

OUR BRAIN IS DOING EXACTLY WHAT WE NEEDED TO DO.

IT'S EXACTLY WHAT EVOLUTION WOULD WANT TO GIVE US TO SURVIVE POTENTIALLY OVERWHELMING STRESS, AND IT'S A KEY POINT OF EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE.

YET, IF YOU LOOK IN BOOKS ON RESILIENCE, THEY DON'T EVEN MENTION REPRESSION, BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE NOT AWARE OF IT.

THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE EMOTIONS ARE POWERFUL.

WE'RE NOT AWARE OF THEM, BUT THEY'RE THERE, AND IN MY PATIENTS, IT'S CLEAR THAT THOSE EMOTIONS LINGER BENEATH OUR AWARENESS AND AFFECT US.

AND IF WE CAN GET IN TOUCH WITH THAT EMOTION AT A TIME LATER WHEN OUR LIFE IS IN ORDER, WE CAN HEAL, AND WE CAN HEAL OFTEN QUICKLY.

LET ME ASK YOU BOTH.

I GOT ABOUT THREE MINUTES LEFT.

WE COULD TALK FOR HOURS ABOUT THIS.

LET ME ASK YOU BOTH THE SAME QUESTION.

THIS BECOMES A MEDICAL NEWS YOU CAN USE OUT THERE.

DR. PHILLIPS, I'LL START WITH YOU.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO YOUR PATIENTS OR ANYBODY WHO'S WATCHING THIS OUT HERE NOW.

SAY I'M COMING BACK FROM SOME SORT OF PHYSICAL INJURY OR A PROBLEM AND THIS SOUNDS INTERESTING -- WHAT KIND OF -- EXCUSE ME.

WHAT KIND OF GUIDANCE CAN YOU GIVE TO PATIENTS?

AWARENESS.

SO, THE KEY IS BEING AWARE OF EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL.

YOUR PHYSICIAN SHOULD BE ASKING THAT THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS.

SO, HOW ARE YOU FEELING?

HOW ARE THINGS FEELING?

IS IT AFFECTING ANYTHING?

AND I THINK MAKING SURE THAT A PATIENT GATHERS THAT AWARENESS WILL HELP THEM WITH THEIR STRESS AND HELP THEM WITH THEIR ABILITY TO THINK THROUGH WHY THEY'RE FEELING THE WAY THEY'RE FEELING.

AND ONCE THAT'S SORT OF PUT IN PLACE, THEN THE PHYSICAL HEAL CAN START.

DR. MANN, HOW ABOUT YOU?

SAME QUESTION -- WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PATIENTS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE WATCHING THIS WHO ARE EXPERIENCING SOME OF THESE AILMENTS AND MALADIES THAT WE'VE TALKED ABOUT HERE ABOUT THAT WHOLE NOTION OF THE MIND/BODY CONNECTION AND WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP OURSELVES?

I WOULD SAY THREE QUICK THINGS.

ONE, I WOULD EXPLAIN TO THE PATIENT THE POSSIBLE CONNECTION.

SOME PATIENTS WILL GET IT.

SOME MAY NOT.

I WOULD REASSURE THEM THAT THEIR MIND HAD DONE EXACTLY WHAT WAS NECESSARY AT THE TIME.

SOMETIMES THE TRAUMA WAS SO SEVERE IT'S NOT MEANT TO BE -- TO GET IN TOUCH WITH IT.

AND IN THAT CASE, TREATMENT WITH DIFFERENT MEDICATION THAN ONE WOULD ALWAYS USE CAN BE HELPFUL, ALTHOUGH OFTEN IT'S NOT CONSIDERED.

AND THE MAIN POINT IS THAT THIS IS SO NEW IN UNDERSTANDING THAT WE NEED TO STUDY MORE WHAT IS THE BEST WAYS TO ASSIST THE PATIENT IN ABILITY TO GET IN TOUCH WITH STUFF THAT'S INSIDE THAT IS AFFECTING US DESPITE OUR LACK OF AWARENESS OF IT AND RESEARCH NEEDS TO BEGIN TO CONSIDER IT.

THE MESSAGE SEEMS TO BE SIMILAR FOR BOTH OF YOU -- AWARENESS, UNDERSTANDING, AND CERTAINLY A NEED FOR RESEARCH.

DR. JONATHAN PHILLIPS, DR. SAMUEL MAN, THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING SCHOOL BUS SHARING.

FASCINATING CONVERSATION.

HOPEFULLY WE CAN CONTINUE THAT CONVERSATION AS WE MOVE ON FORWARD.

SO DOCTORS, BOTH THANK YOU, YOU BOTH BE WELL.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

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