Explaining chronic bodily symptoms (infographic)

What causes chronic symptoms when there's no obvious physical explanation, even after extensive medical investigations?

Written BY

Dr Angela Cooper

Head of Experiential Discovery

All author's posts

September 4, 2019

...This is a question I specialise in helping GPs and healthcare professionals to answer.


I’m Dr Ange Cooper, a Clinical Psychologist based at the Centre for Emotions and Health at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I’m also Head of Experiential Discovery at EmotiHealth in Birmingham, UK.


I have spent a great deal of time researching the connection between unexplained symptoms and the physiological impact of past emotional stress or trauma. In short, emotional events by way of the body’s physiology, can trigger physical symptoms, that medical investigations can't detect and for which the treatments are ineffective. This unknowing situation can cause people to worry extensively about their symptoms and the severity of their condition, which can create a stressful internal environment and a cycle of anxiety, worry and symptoms. And so it goes on…


There are several reasons why medical professionals don’t explore emotional triggers for medically unexplained symptoms (MUS); often they are unsure how to start the conversation with patients in a tactful way, or how to address an underlying emotional cause in short consultation sessions.  There are also fears about missing a critical medical diagnosis. Therefore, offering an effective, yet safe, approach to these conditions is key for both patients and professionals.


Explaining chronic bodily symptoms

This infographic was created by the team from CURABLE, who are a group of experienced researchers and clinicians specialising in helping people to understand the cycle of stress, pain and symptom. It clearly explains the cycle of chronic conditions using neuroscience and the body’s physiological response to stress or trauma. I think it's an awesome graphic because it conveys complex information in a simple way.

When you understand the cycle, you can learn how to break it and how to allow healing to occur. That’s how we can help you.


In my next post I explain in more detail the link between adverse childhood events (ACEs), and physical conditions in later life.

Read my previous post to find out the most common unexplained conditions

Click here to learn about the courses and workshops we run to help healthcare professionals master medically unexplained symptoms and achieve better outcomes for their patients.

Further Reading
“Why can I not find the cause of my patient’s pain?”
This is a question I hear a great deal from Family Medicine Doctors. For many doctors with patients like these, it's hugely frustrating. Imagine, then, how you and your patients would feel if you could find a way to provide better outcomes for them.
September 3, 2019
I'm a tug boat. Who knew!
Co-creating change and never giving up.
July 5, 2019