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Sore Throat: Psychosomatic Causes

09.01.2020 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Most often, a sore throat is considered to be a symptom of a cold, and treated with ‘hardcore’ means, i.e. medications. However, in fact, situation can be much more complicated, since nasopharynx disorders in some cases are caused not only by viruses or bacteria. If the problem appears too often, or sometimes even becomes chronic, it is worth considering whether the sore throat is related to psychosomatics. Let’s discuss in this article how our fears, concerns and stresses may cause tonsillitis or other ENT diseases.


Physical and mental health: what is psychosomatics

psychosomatics health

Remember the time when you ‘accidentally’ caught a cold just at the time when you were overwhelmed with severe fatigue or felt overly busy? In short, this is how psychosomatics manifests itself. In other words, our emotional state directly affects our health. Everything that happens in our life, whether good or bad, is a consequence of the way of our thinking and view of life, as well as our level of stress resistance. In such a way, constant stress can lead to the development of some diseases.

According to official statistics, about 38-42% of all visitors in the clinic may be attributed to the group of psychosomatic patients. Statistics directly indicate that many health problems are related to stress. [1]

Psychosomatics is a field in medicine and psychology that studies the influence of external and internal psychological factors on the occurrence and run of various somatic (physical) disorders. Now psychosomatics is a whole scientific system that combines elements of psychology, biology and physiology. [2]

Psychologists and psychiatrists recommend that their colleagues, when diagnosing a patient’s disease, pay attention not only to the results of the tests, but also to their emotional state. There is a risk that the causes of the pathology found are psychosomatic. This means that the patient may not need medical treatment, but a course of psychotherapy.

Psychosomatics: what’s causing your sore throat?

sore throat

Unresolved personality problems or stress may have consequences in the form of various diseases, from migraine attacks to sudden pressure spikes. Sore throat is one of the manifestations of psychological discomfort. If you have symptoms such as sore throat, even rapidly vanishing one, or more serious inflammatory processes, then you should consult not only a therapist, but also a psychologist.

A human does not have underlying risk for psychosomatic diseases. But each of us forms certain behavioral stereotypes, subconscious reactions to difficult life situations from early childhood. In other words, if a person is already used to feeling extreme stress even from minor troubles, to worrying over any kind of mistake, to keeping silent about his or her problems, this is his or her personal way of responding to life occurrences.

In such a way, negative emotions accumulate, and there is a risk that the body will turn on a protective reaction in the form of a cold, sooner or later. In addition, according to doctors, the temperament type is of great importance for the formation of psychosomatics. For example, melancholic people often hide their emotions under color of tranquility. Keeping silence about our concerns is not easy, and that’s how potential problems with psychosomatic illnesses may arise.

We will eliminate the psychosomatic causes of sore throat

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Louise Hay, psychologist, identifies several causes of sore throat associated with psychosomatics in her book. [3] We would also add that this is only a theory that has not yet been supported by scientific research. Nevertheless, it is confirmed by real examples.

1. Fear of public speaking

According to experts, this is the most common psychosomatic cause of larynx disorders.

If a person is afraid to speak in public, his or her body tries to get out of the crisis. Sore throat is the most direct expression of this fear. It may be any disease – perspiration, sensation of a lump in the throat, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, or almost any symptom that would serve as a good reason to avoid public speaking situations. Decreased local immunity is usually a protective reaction so that bacteria hit the throat.

Obviously, the root cause is related not to the pathogenic microflora, but to an acute sense of self-doubt, the fear of seeming ridiculous or incompetent when speaking in public. In this situation, it is important for a person to overcome his or her life challenges.

2. Unspoken feelings

Some people are silent about their feelings so as not to hurt other peoples’ feelings. But, the constant suppression of negative emotions can lead to the fact that the body will start looking for a reason to avoid speaking at all. When the cause of a sore throat is psychosomatic, it maybe explained by protective reaction of the body, a kind of sign that your willpower should take a little rest. In this case, inability to speak would be caused not by attitudes, but by physical illness.

In order to overcome these problems, a person should learn how to let go of resentment and take more care about his or her personal feelings. All negative emotions should be worked through and then forgotten.

3. Boring job

A person who is always dissatisfied with his or her job will subconsciously look for any reason to avoid working. In this situation, the body will help to find a solution by its own ways. Tonsillitis in adults often have a psychosomatic origin, because sore throat can become a quite good reason for taking time off and doing self-treatment.

This problem will not disappear until you find a better job, truly interesting and exciting projects.

4. Inability to accept life changes

Sore throats may be also related to sudden changes in life that a person is forced to accept. For example, a person does not want to move to another city, but has to do this due to current circumstances. In this situation, internal imbalance and discomfort, which require a way out, often provoke the development of some diseases, including tonsillitis.

5. Writer’s block

Many people do not use creativity and self-expression in their daily life, believing that this is a waste of time, or referring to a lack of talent.

Then the body gives alarming signs in an attempt to make a person stop and take a breath. Pharyngitis in adults, caused by psychosomatics, is a good reason for taking such a pause and to realize a person’s own needs. Often, it happens to artists who are prone to the psychosomatic ENT diseases.

Psychosomatic throat disorders

why does the throat hurt

Doctors identify a number of throat diseases that may be caused by unfavorable psychological factors. Let us consider in more detail the cases of possible psychosomatic reasons of sore throat and cough.

Psychosomatic tonsillitis

According to doctors, the causes of tonsillitis may be discontent, resentment or suppressed feelings. Such a combination of circumstances is characteristic of self-doubtful people who are trying to maintain relations with people by avoiding even the slightest conflict with them. [4]

As a result, negative emotions accumulate over time, and then local immunity becomes weakened to such an extent that a person could not speak at all for some time. Tonsillitis caused by psychosomatic causes appears regularly, up to 5-6 times a year.

Psychosomatic laryngitis

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx accompanied by symptoms such as hoarseness, cough, and sometimes difficulty in breathing.

It is believed that the cause of the psychosomatic laryngitis in adults and children with complete or partial loss of voice is that a person is unable to express him- or herself or doesn’t show his or her true emotions. Such person is constantly worried, overwhelmed with fears. “People will think I’m a jerk”, “They will laugh at me”, “He/she will think that I am unqualified in this field”, “He/she will be offended at me” – these and other attitudes do not leave a person’s head. We all feel the need for self-expression in words, but an anxious person is constantly forced to restrain him- or herself. [4]

As a result, the body starts a protective reaction in the form of laryngitis. In fact, this is the result that kind of person strives for – to be silent and invisible to others.

Psychosomatic pharyngitis

Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the pharynx in the area located between the nasal canals and the larynx.

According to doctors, the psychosomatic pharyngitis in children and adults is often caused by numerous fears, increased anxiety and difficulties in self-realization. A person has a huge internal potential, but due to self-doubt, does not find a way to bring all his or her ideas to life. [5]

By weakening local immunity, the body gives a person a chance to think about his or her future and make important decisions aimed at changing the usual way of life.

Psychosomatic tonsillitis

According to experts in psychosomatics, a person can suffer from tonsillitis due to a sense of powerlessness and inability to defend his or her opinion, to stand up for him- or herself. This illness can also indicate constantly suppressed anger and unwillingness to accept current life circumstances. [5]

Chronic tonsillitis caused by psychosomatics is a way by which the body copes with a problem situation. Perhaps, a person should relax and find a way out of his or her negative emotions. All blocked energy should be expressed by peaceful means – for example, in any kind of art.

Psychosomatic sore throat in children

the child has a sore throat

“Over the last 2 years my son often had a sore throat. After pharyngitis, tonsillitis appears, after tonsillitis – another throat infection, etc. I try to keep him warm, avoid drafts. Why then does my child have such weak immune system?

Recently I came across an interesting book written by a specialist for psychosomatic medicine. After reading, I came to the conclusion that my child’s disease may be possibly caused by stress. In fact, in recent times, my husband and I had very tense relations, we always fight among ourselves. I compared the facts – and normally our child feels sick after our serious quarrels. And then, while Vitya is ill, our relationship with my husband becomes calmer. During these periods, we give more attention to our son and enjoy our family’s idyll. And then everything repeats all over again: our child has a sore throat against the background of psychosomatics because of our quarrels with my husband.

Finally, we decided that it would be a good idea to visit a child psychologist. And we also need to ‘treat’ our relationship with my husband, so that our son feels better.

– Maria, 8-year-old Vitya’s mom

Children’s virgin minds are very sensitive to negative external factors. Therefore, children often suffer from throat diseases caused by psychosomatics and not by chronic physiological processes.

Some doctors believe that a frequent reason for the development of various psychosomatic throat disorders in children is their fear of speaking in public or even communicating with their peers. Children suffering from self-doubt are usually afraid to look ridiculous in front of others, which contributes to the appearance of phobia of making mistakes, even smallest ones. Therefore, a disease that makes communication difficult becomes a good reason for being silent. By weakening the immune system, the body creates comfortable conditions for the child. [2]

Psychologists identify one more possible cause of psychosomatic sore throat in children, – forced changes in life that literally turn the child’s world upside down: for example, moving to another city or transferring from one school to another. In this situation, children often have difficulties in accepting the circumstances, they feel really scared. So, the disease helps them keep staying at home. [3]

When considering the causes of psychosomatic laryngitis, you should also find out if your child feels deprived of parental attention. For example, children who feel bereft of their parents’ love can get sick more often. The body thus does the favor to the child, because parents usually lavish attention on their children when they are sick.

In addition, in the psychosomatics of children throat diseases, parenting style often plays an essential role. Over-protection, excessive demands, emotional coldness or excessive severity – all this can make your children unsure of themselves or anxious, which increases the risk of frequent colds. [2]

Therefore, it is important to help the children find solutions to difficult situations, so that they could reach adulthood with healthy life attitude.

Psychosomatic sore throat in adults

throat ailments

“My husband is a hypochondriac. Constantly looking for symptoms of various diseases and then throwing a pity party. It has always been this way, and I’m already used to such behavior, going easy on him. But recently things have become much more serious.

A year ago he lost his job because he could not get along with his management. He quit loudly, and, apparently, lost faith in himself. For several months he didn’t even try to find a new job, he just sat around doing nothing. But over time I started persuading him to look for a job, submit CV and do interviews, because our household budget was already stretched thin.

And then things got messy. Constant illnesses began to appear – either a cold or a sore throat. At first I thought: well, he pretends to be sick, as he usually does. But all the symptoms were real –he had a fever, a cough, a snot. He needed treatment, obviously, but after recovering he fell ill again. As soon as I remind him to look for a job, my husband immediately became ill. And all this despite the fact that he always had strong immune system, and didn’t go outside at that time either. During this year my husband was sick 6 or 7 times. Of course, he did not even have time to do interviews.

Later, I realized that my husband had psychosomatics throat disorders. You know, it is just impossible for a physically healthy person to get sick so often. I think my husband fell victim to his dismissal. Now I try to support him in every possible way, not to push or rush him. If this does not help, we will consult a psychologist.”

— Kristina, 30

It seems that an adult should be more resistant to various life challenges. Despite this, throat psychosomatics also occur in people leading seemingly fulfilled lives.

Experts suggest that in adults psychosomatic throat disorders in most cases are related to unspoken feelings or constant need to keep silent about grievances. For one reason or another, a person tries to keep their feelings inside, either afraid to hurt others’ feelings or self-conscious, or afraid to destroy relationships with others. But, in fact, this leads to worse results, because hushing up problems does not help to solve them! Thus, over the years, pain and anger accumulate. [2]

Another important reason for psychosomatic sore throat in adults is a boring but necessary job. It is difficult to find a good reason for skipping it out, but a cold may serve the most suitable occasion for that. You can legally stay at home away from the ‘unhealthy’ team and the routine you hate. In such a way, the body ‘saves’ you with the help of throat disorders. [3]

Moreover, people often overreach themselves with responsibility at their work, with numerous projects or burning deadlines… A person stubbornly moves toward his or her goal, ignoring psychological comfort. So, the body ‘saves’ a person’s emotional balance by weakening his or her immunity, because a cold is a kind of respite, even if it needs treatment.

How to treat psychosomatic throat disorders?

sore throat

Sometimes it happens that a patient consults a doctor complaining of constant sore throat, but his or her diagnostic tests are normal, with no abnormalities in the body functioning. Thus, from a medical point of view, a person is healthy. But this is where psychosomatics come in. The problem may require not medical treatment, but a course of psychotherapy. It is worth thinking about for physically healthy people, who are worried about painful sensations in the throat reoccurring for no apparent reason.

If you have a suspicion that the nature of your tonsillitis or other ENT disease is psychosomatic, then it is worth starting treatment with a course of psychotherapy. Working with a therapist will help you to identify your hidden fears, signs of depression, causes of constant irritation or melancholy – in other words, all those negative emotions that may provoke the development of your disease. The root cause is not always able to be identified immediately. For example, a patient told a therapist that he or she had been afraid of public speaking since his or her childhood. But, it is often very difficult to identify a chain of associated elements that cause a psychosomatic symptom.

However, psychosomatic throat disorders always indicate the need for personality changes. It is important to overcome fears and hangups, break negativity or bad habits. An effective way to solve these problems is behavioral psychology.

One of the new trends in modern psychology is the 7Spsy technique of behavior modification. 7Spsy is a patented method based on the theories of I. P. Pavlov, B. F. Skinner, A. A. Ukhtomsky and others. The training will help you to find a new look at old problems, relieve increased anxiety and become more stress-resistant. The training is not designed to deeply unravel the tangle of previous concerns, its purpose is to eliminate or alleviate the current symptoms. Sometimes, all you need is to change the focus of your attention, to separate your emotional and physiological states. In this case, it is necessary to distinguish psychosomatic pains from those caused by a real disease. Positive attitudes acquired during the training will help you to quickly get out of stressful and conflict situations, which is extremely important skill for maintaining good mental health.

We will eliminate the psychosomatic causes of sore throat

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique course is designed for up to 6 weeks. In this course, you consult a psychologist in a comfortable remote mode, you receive all consultations and answers to your questions in online chats, by phone or e-mail. Participation in the course is strictly confidential. Remember that changing negative attitudes and overcoming pathological conditions will entail favorable changes in all areas of your life.

All tips posted on this website are advisory in their nature and do not replace or supersede a face-to-face interaction with your doctor. The information posted on this website cannot be used for self-treatment or diagnosis.

Information on the possible results of treatment may not serve a guarantee of achieving results when applying the described treatment methods, in each case, even if such information was confirmed by previous medical practice.


1.   «Istoriia razvitiia psikhosomatiki», 2018 g., N. L. Solovevskaia (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/istoriya-razvitiya-psihosomatiki/viewer).

2.   «Psikhosomaticheskaia meditsina. Printsipy i prakticheskoe», 2002 g., Aleksander F.

3.   «Zdorovyi dukh — zdorovoe telo», 1998 g., Luiza L. Khei.

4.   «Istseli Svoiu Zhizn», 1987 g., Luiza L. Khei.

5.   «Slushai svoe telo: ono tvoi samyi luchshii drug», 1987 g., L. Burbo.