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Is TMS a incurable disease?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by hodini, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. hodini

    hodini Peer Supporter

    Hi All,

    While I do not personally feel I am suffering from TMS, I have read many posts and spoken with a few, who have differing outlooks on if TMS is an incurable disease or not. From the couple of Sarno books I have read it Seems that Sarno thinks he has provided cures, yet speaks about setbacks I was wondering what those who are affected by TMS think about this. and if any of the therapists know for certain what is the case.
  2. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hm, I don't really like the term "incurable disease" as it is pathologizing to many people. TMS is a part of the human condition, that is ok. There are cures for TMS pain but setbacks are natural for many, given the range of experiences, traumas and emotions people have. I feel generally "cured" of my chronic pain yet get little TMS flare ups now and again because like everyone I have emotions that I repress and can't always be aware of at all times. Expecting to never get any pain caused by emotion again is not reasonable and i've heard multiple TMS clinicians talk about their own flare ups over the years.
  3. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    In agreement with MBPT, I don't even think it's a disease at all. I think that the mechanism causing symptoms (that we conveniently call TMS, with a continuing nod to Dr. Sarno) is part of a primitive mechanism to keep us alert for danger, instead of getting bogged down and distracted with negative emotions.

    This mechanism served us well when we only had to survive long enough to breed the next generation, but it doesn't work well at all with our long lives, or even with the knowledge of our long lives when we are young. Most of us are lucky enough to live without actual physical danger, but nonetheless we live with what our brains still perceive as constant threats - worrying about the future, school competition, job competition, crowding, traffic... etc. And, good lord, modern parents who obsess about keeping their kids safe, and never, ever, exposed to any kind of danger. IMHO, this just creates neurotic kids - and is, I think, one reason that we see more and more young people on the forum every day.

    In any case, what this means to me is that TMS is not something to be "cured". As MBPT said, it's part of the human condition, and it can be controlled. The first step is to lose one's fear over symptoms, and accept that they are created by our brains (phantom limb pain is the most obvious example of how pain is created in the brain, and don't beat me up if I'm not speaking physiologically correctly about how that works - I'm a tax accountant, not a scientist - it's obvious what I'm attempting to refer to).

    This is my opinion, formed over the last six years since I discovered Dr. Sarno almost exactly six years ago, and thanks to a lot of different information on the subject of the mindbody connection (see my profile page for a list of my favorite authors, books, and other resources).

  4. hodini

    hodini Peer Supporter


    I can see why the term "incurable disease" might raise the hairs on ones neck, but the term TMS and its proposed causes are what actually pathologize the disease. Though Sarno's understanding and Alan's appear to differ a bit, both speak of abnormal processes leading to the symptoms which combine to form TMS. Perhaps it might be better looked at as an "as yet, an incurable disease" which infers the possibility of a cure at some point in time.

    As far as TMS being part of the human condition, that is a misnomer.

    The human condition as I understand it comprises the essential elements for the human species survival, ie; breathing, hunger,reproduction, pain, emotionality, love, conflict, and on and on....all of those things plus a myriad of others are essential to the existence of the human species (at least for the present). I would think you would agree that you would really not wish TMS on the species as an essential element for the species survival.
  5. hodini

    hodini Peer Supporter

    @JanAtheCPA ,
    I forgot death and taxes as part of the human condition also! LOL
  6. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think all of this very much depends on your outlook! Lots of things are part of the "human condition" that could cause suffering that don't occur purely for survival proposes in this current day and age. Sarno himself speaks of TMS as part of our current human experience, a universal. He states that he still gets it, he gets it more than many! (Just saw the documentary All The Rage and this stood out).

    Of course he and the rest of us wish it on no one, but physical/emotional pain is a part of life. Naming the syndrome itself doesn't pathologise so much as the idea that you "must be rid of it" fully to be successful. Naming it also gives us the tools to have control over it and not let it take over our life.

    Others may not agree but I don't think there is some kind of "cure" the way there is for a purely physical illness like a bacteria or virus. You can't forever eradicate any condition that is partially or fully mindbody in origin without fundamentally changing how our brains work.
    JanAtheCPA and Ellen like this.
  7. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Dr. Sarno termed TMS part of the "human condition", it is not a disease, it is a psychological defense mechanism. Dr. Sarno said it was a PROTECTOR, from experiencing what the sub-conscious decides is even more painful emotional pain head-on. So it supplies a socially acceptable distraction sympathy gathering device as a distraction, to get one off life's playing field. It was found that soldier's injured in battle, needed very little or no morphine for their excruciating pain, due to the relief of being in a hospital bed, and off the literal battlefield. Having a socially acceptable structural TMS "injury" takes us off the battlefield of life--away from having to deal with the emotional issues the sub-c has decided for us are even more painful then the physical pain TMS pain, which Dr. Sarno said are some of the most excruciating he had seen--although they were benign. That's why TMS symptoms morph, depending on what is popular in the collective me and socially acceptable to talk about. When ulcers were found out to be caused by stress, then and now back "problems" superseded them. Ulcers are making a comeback though now that "scientific evidence" is being found to repopularize it and bring them back into the collective fold of socially acceptable symptoms. I've heard anecdotally Dr. Sarno had TMS symptoms, he was human too. If TMS is a disease, maybe it should be approached by treating the gray matter that is at it's source--I've heard, like leaching, lobotomies and electro-shock therapy are coming back into favor--everything old is new again.
    hecate105 likes this.
  8. Celayne

    Celayne Well known member

    >> I've heard anecdotally Dr. Sarno had TMS symptoms, he was human too.<< In the two books of his that I have read, he touches on his symptoms.
  9. hodini

    hodini Peer Supporter

    Hi TT,
    I would like to thank you all for your thoughtful responses. In re reading and giving more thought to some of your responses, I retract what I said about saying that TMS is part of the human condition is a misnomer.

    If TMS is a disorder (Sarno's words, not mine) then by nature it would be part of the human condition as all humans experience a disorder of some sort, physical, mental, spiritual or otherwise at some point in their lives.

    My point here is to try an address the nature of discussing TMS, sometimes it appears to be like trying to nail jello to the wall. I am attempting to try and get it in some sort of bag or container which can then be put on a shelf on the wall or nail the bag to the wall so to speak. Sarno said that the first thing with regard to TMS is information. Conflicting information leads to confusion and "disorder". I do not agree with all of Sarno's hypothesis, but I do agree with the journey and adventure of exploration he was part of.

    Sarno speaks of permanence in the removal of TMS symptoms. That is for the most part a cure. Alan on the other hand, looks at it more like a disease model (my interpretation) I say that because a disorder is basically when things are not operating as they should with no structural effect, where a disease had definite physiological effects.
    When one says that the brain/mind is abnormally processing information (a disorder), and then those processes lead to physical changes in ones brain (a disease). This is my line of thinking. I see many here having what I see as valid challenges in attempting to interpret the meaning, modes of causality, treatment surrounding TMS.

    I would expect some of those challenges to be mitigated if their were some common foundational points, the starting would be to define what TMS is. It should not be a free for all with everyone having their "own truth".
    It should be possible to arrive at some consensus even if it may be disputed an debated by some.

    "Dr. Sarno termed TMS part of the "human condition", it is not a disease, it is a psychological defense mechanism."

    TT, OK, let's not call TMS a disease, but a disorder like Sarno does. But then in that case, it would be a disorder of our psychological defense mechanism. It makes a difference in discussing TMS, because how can one address or create order out of disorder without first recognizing it for what it is (in theory).

    My understanding from Sarno's take is that the disorder is protecting one from something that doesn't really need to be protected, though quite often I find the logic circular. Making my brain into jello, lol. Alan's take is similar in that respect.

    "So it supplies a socially acceptable distraction sympathy gathering device as a distraction, to get one off life's playing field."

    That does not really make evolutionary sense. If you are speaking in the context of the last 2,000 years or so, our brains do not develop in evolutionary terms in such a short period of time, that is a blink of the eye. Even if it were true, that this type of behavior goes back hundreds of thousands of years, "socially acceptable distraction sympathy gathering devices would have literally gotten one off of lifes' playing field permanently and so would be maladaptive; in which case, we would not be having this conversation right now.

    It might be said that illness and injury is a part of the human condition and aids in evolutionary value (I know this may sound cold) because it weeds out the weaker of the species which might threaten survival of the herd, tribe, or group. As human beings, especially in more recent times, we have developed our sense of compassion and empathy. Could it be, that part of the isolation one feels in having an illness or disorder comes in part from a fear or anxiety of being perceived as weaker, not a valuable contributor to society and that keeps the cycle of disorder going?? I think this may just be a important part of the puzzle of many differing syndromes and disorders.

    "It was found that soldier's injured in battle, needed very little or no morphine for their excruciating pain, due to the relief of being in a hospital bed, and off the literal battlefield. Having a socially acceptable structural TMS "injury" takes us off the battlefield of life--away from having to deal with the emotional issues the sub-c has decided for us are even more painful then the physical pain TMS pain, which Dr. Sarno said are some of the most excruciating he had seen--although they were benign. "

    That is a fairly old example about the soldier, I would suggest that it was not necessarily being off the battlefield, or relief from being in the hospital bed which enabled the soldier to do with less morphine. I would say it is perhaps a fine example of the mind/body working its magic. I say this from personal experience and this is why:

    When my daughter was 7 years old, she was involved in a car accident, seriously injuring her (she's fine now).
    She had been pinned in between two cars, the bumper broke both her femurs and the headlight damaged her spleen and liver. Because of the nature of her injuries, she could not be given any pain killers. After they operated to remove the damaged parts of her internal organs and put pins through her femurs so that her legs hung from a cage above her, she was in excruciating pain, more then I could ever imagine. I was with her in the intensive care and in the bed next to hers was a teen who had been involved in a motorcycle accident, he was in terrible shape, hoses everywhere, missing skin, multiple broken bones...(unfortunately, he did not make it).

    I positioned myself between my daughter and him to block her view, she kept swatting at me with her hand, finally in her pain filled delirium she said "Go away, he's my medicine, he's my medicine!" a month or so later in the hospital I asked her if she remembered that and what was it about. she told me, "When I would look at him, he was hurt so bad that it made my pain go away". Out of the mouth of babes, and never having to book learn how to quell her pain.

    "That's why TMS symptoms morph, depending on what is popular in the collective me and socially acceptable to talk about."

    Being a fan of Occams razor, I would say the fact that TMS symptoms morph is more likely due to ones body compensating.
    Tennis Tom likes this.
  10. Celayne

    Celayne Well known member

    One's body often compensates in ways that are well-known and 'popular'. Chicken or egg?
    Tennis Tom likes this.
  11. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    hi Hodidni, thanks for your well thought out answer, i took a quick scan of it and will try to reply more later, i'm coming back from Canada having played a tournament on some lovely grasscourts barefoot and found some new red clay cts for next time--i've got to get out of my room before i get charged another $500 and get down the coast to Gold beach where I only pay $119--i've got caught up in this oregon eclipse thing so i guess i'll get some glasses to watch it with for monday--on the coast it will probably be a fog out--folks go to Prineveille for its total effect/affect--

    Hod, i think we're on the same page via Sarno, just in different states--i'm in OR. right now but be back in kali soon--more to follow--hit a bunch of aces--

  12. bagofwater

    bagofwater Peer Supporter

    I've been asking a similar question of myself, though worded/framed differently: Are my TMS symptoms a permanent condition? Almost 10 years ago I discovered Healing Back Pain, and like so many others, it transformed my life from one of constant pain to one with occasional symptoms. I tell people I'm 90% cured 90% of the time. A good stat, but that remaining 10% is damn inconvenient and can range form annoying symptom-imperative distractions, to debilitating lower back pain as bad or worse than my original symptoms of old. Whenever I have symptoms I find myself wondering what is wrong with me. If I can eliminate 90% of my pain why can't I close that small gap and become pain free?

    I've given Healing Back Pain to a number of people over the years and my own anecdotal observations coincide with what Dr. Sarno says, that a certain number of people read the book once and never look back. I know two such people that, so far, are "cured" of the "disease" after just reading that book. Others reject the premise and others still need to work at staying pain free. I'm definitely in the latter group. As such I've read and reread everything there is on TMS, I have a therapist, I journal etc. At this point I could write a book on the subject! Yet I still can't get completely free of pain, and much worse, I fear that the pain will came back for good. I'm always asking, what is different about my brain than the people that get book-cures?

    What would be very useful is a resource for the choir: That is the people that accept the TMS diagnoses on every level, have read the books, but can't manage to become pain free. All the books available are aimed at people who are just learning about TMS and spend the vast majority of the pages convincing TMS is real and that conventional physical approaches don't work. Perspectives for veteran stragglers like me (and I suspect a lot of folks on the forums, or why would they be here?!) would be super helpful.
    karinabrown, Lily Rose and Celayne like this.
  13. David88

    David88 Well known member

    As someone in that category, I agree.

    I've had great relief from my symptoms, and corresponding improvement in my quality of life. But I had to do a great deal of psychological work to get there, and I know that the work will never be finished.

    My symptoms stem from a lonely, painful and scary childhood where I had to learn to stifle my feelings in order to avoid the rages of my narcissistic father and meet the expectations of my enabling mother. It took a very good therapist to help me bring those feelings to awareness, and it was a very difficult process. I have a much better life as a result. I'll always have feelings that are difficult to face, and I'll always have to beware that I don't push them away with distractions, including TMS, as I encounter the stresses of life. But I'll take that deal any day.
    Ellen, Lily Rose, Lavender and 2 others like this.
  14. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    TMS is my hobby;). I don't know you so I will ask some general questions :

    What stressful emotional situations are you experiencing, or have you experienced in the past year as defined on the Holmes-Rahe list?

    Is the therapist you've seen a TMS therapist?

    What are your TMS symptoms preventing you from doing?

    Dr. Sarno had TMS symptoms and he wrote the book(s).
  15. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    No, Dr. Sarno says TMS is benign. In his initial books when dealing with his specialty, rehab med, dealing with backs, limbs and joints, he attributed the cause to O2 deprivation of a very few cells--harmless but excruciatingly painful.

    Hodini, may I ask you what is your goal here, do you have injuries that you want to "cure" or are you here out of intellectual curiosity regarding healing modalities due to your negative prior experiences regarding cult behavior?
    karinabrown and JanAtheCPA like this.
  16. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    That is what modern medicine and pharma, practicing the cartesian method, also attempts to do, and misses the point and the core of most chronic pain--the subconscious need for it. They treat the symptoms with PT or a prescription--but miss the cause--the emotions. TMS is full of intangibles that can't be treated in 10 minutes in the white coat exam room or by swallowing a pill.
  17. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

  18. JessA

    JessA New Member

    I think it would be consistent with what Sarnos says to think of TMS as an ‘adaptive’ learned behaviour (as in a psychologically-driven adaptation due to environmental circumstances). Since it is subconscious, it becomes second nature to some of us without any inkling it is there… I can sympathise with you, David88 - I became a proficient little dissociater and, I believe, formed a heavy ‘reliance’ on TMS due to a childhood with a narcissist; as a matter of survival, one is not safe to express feelings in that context. It’s a recipe to train oneself to repress! The more ingrained and second nature the TMS method of coping is, the harder I imagine it is to tease it out into the view of the conscious and to ‘teach’ the body a new way of dealing; similarly, in hard times, the more likely the body is to revert to defences learnt and depended on in that vulnerable and formative childhood?

    From this perspective, I think for those of us at high risk for reverting to a TMS method of coping, if we want to to reduce reliance on TMS in future circumstances, it may be that we need to, in some ways, form new personality aspects to those we have been previously trained to have. Impossible? I don't think it is, but certainly this is something requiring a lot of work and commitment, and probably some trial and error and expectation of 'relapses' along the way. It is difficult to manage a subconscious beast. I personally have done a lot of work over the years in reducing my automatic tendency to ‘dissociate’, which seems a connected thing - but at least I can identify when that is happening, which makes it much easier to work with and monitor. I have a feeling that, should I get to a point where I can fully embrace every feeling that is happening to me in the moment - to the point that it is my new default setting - dissociation (and repression, and hence perhaps TMS?) ought to be effectively removed from my 'life stressor' default reaction toolbox… Note I don't necessarily expect that I (or any other human being) will never dissociate/repress/TMS again... it will hopefully just stop being one of my brain's "preferred coping methods" and not be so extreme or long-lived if/when it does occur. With luck, I will have worn my psyche a new, better groove, and, with a little nudging, hopefully I can pop it to my preferred track real quick :). The good thing is, whatever happens to 'symptoms' we might be suffering, this sort of work is always worthwhile (easy for me to say though - none of mine currently involve pain).

    Just my thoughts. Good luck to you all.
    karinabrown, Ellen and Tennis Tom like this.
  19. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    An obsessive search for something concrete, or a black-and-white answer, when it comes to the squishy/slippery/gray topic of the mindbody connection, is something that many of us have learned to let go of. This includes obsessing over terminology and semantics. These are symptoms of the perfectionist personality that lead so many of us to experience chronic TMS symptoms in the first place.

    Plenty of people manage live their entire lives with the TMS mechanism occasionally bothering them, but without sliding into debilitating chronic conditions. Don't forget, blushing is an example of TMS!
    Gigalos, Ellen, Lunarlass66 and 3 others like this.
  20. bagofwater

    bagofwater Peer Supporter

    Emotional situations this year (briefly): 1. My father's aging and inevitable demise - he's 90. 2. The recent discovery that I was psychologically tortured by a sibling as an infant. Possibly physically as well. 3. The election and the state of politics (probable loss of health care, hate groups in the streets etc).

    My therapist is not a TMS therapist, but is familiar and open to TMS.

    My TMS symptoms don't prevent me, physically, from doing anything. As a TMS believer I know that succumbing to the symptoms will only make things worse. Even when I had an excruciating, 10 out of 10 relapse, after the last election I resumed activity asap - albeit in pain for a few weeks. However, I do experience troughs of depression that often zap my motivation and prevent me from moving forward in my life. On the TMSHelp Forum you pointed out that depression itself is a TMS symptom. I agree. As I mentioned, the fear of symptoms returning is the predominant symptom.

    The fact that Dr. Sarno himself had TMS symptoms, while others who just read the book don't, suggests, paradoxically, that knowledge of TMS may be preventing a total cure!

    Thanks for the reply, TT!

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