We have all been through those stages in life of emotional distress. But why do our bodies feel physically ill even though the damage was purely psychological? Answer to that is in the explanations below which are the best we could find on the internet.
The limbic system is responsible for this feeling! The limbic system is the emotion and memory part of your brain, and is hugely important for how you experience and perceive things.
The limbic system has a direct impact on the autonomic nervous system. If you perceive that you’re in a calm situation, your limbic system will impact the rest of your brain, and thus the rest of your body, to make your body act as if it’s in a calm situation. The hypothalamus is also part of the limbic system and plays a role in your body maintaining chemical balances. It is also a reason why you feel physically ill.
To give a little bit more detail on a few things:
The sympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system is the part of your body that makes your heart beat faster, makes you breathe faster, makes your pupils dilate, and makes you stop digesting food (your blood is diverted to your muscles so you can run if needed).
It is the fight of flight response in your body and has a cascade effect on the rest of your body. If your limbic system is going crazy with emotional trauma, it’ll make your sympathetic nervous system ramp up as well. If you just ate and your body all of the sudden stops digesting food, you may throw up.
The limbic system (emotion and memory area of the brain) also directly impacts almost every other part of your brain. The limbic system is smack dab in the center of your brain, thus connects to everything. This is why being in a really intense situation can change how you feel physically and how you even perceive (time slowing down) a situation. One of the important parts of the limbic system is the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus plays a huge role in maintaining your body’s “natural state”. If you need food, your hypothalamus is the part that makes you feel hungry. The hypothalamus is part of the limbic system, so it is under these same controls of emotion. Under a really stressful situation, your hypothalamus will react with the release of cortisol, which will affect your blood sugar and can make you feel sick.
Now, all of this kind of paints the limbic system as the bad guy, but that’s not really true. The limbic system is also what integrates emotion into what we experience when something is positive. It’s why your mom’s cooking tastes better if you have fond memories of her. It’s what makes your heart flutter when you’re in love. It’s what makes you remember things. Heck, it is even the reason why a truck horn can go off in the dead of night and you won’t wake up, but when someone whispers your name you will.
Acute stress causes an adrenal response which involves a spike in blood sugar. High blood sugar can cause you to feel sick/nauseated. The blood sugar was meant to give a person the energy to run or fight and brain fuel to think quickly or focus.
It’s because your limbic system (emotions) is directly connected to your autonomic nervous system (involuntary actions like breathing, etc.).
When you experience severe emotional trauma your body can respond in many different ways, such as throwing up when seeing something gross or crying when stressed out. Some people even faint; their brains just say “nope” and remove itself from the stressful situation.
The specific part of the autonomic nervous system which is activated is the sympathetic nervous system.The sympathetic nervous system is part of the body’s “flight or fight” response.
Essentially, your body releases adrenaline into your blood stream which interacts with routine organs and blood vessels.
[Here is a nice diagram.] (https://i.pinimg.com/736x/50/f9/d2/50f9d22f435e908106845c79fdf636ae.jpg)
Essentially, it explains why you get nausea, dry mouth, butterflies, etc. when you are stressed.
For completion, the other part of the autonomic nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the body’s “rest and digest” response.
This is why they say that you should wait an arbitrary amount of time after eating before you swim”. So, you have time to digest before activating a different system which will divert blood away from the gut.