Sore Throat: Psychosomatic Causes

Jan 09, 2020


Most often, a sore throat is considered to be a symptom of a cold and treated by ‘hardcore’ means, i.e. medications. In fact, the situation can be much more complicated since nasopharynx disorders in some cases are caused not just 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?

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 manifest themselves. In other words, our emotional state directly affects our health. Everything that happens in our life, whether good or bad, is a consequence of our way of thinking and views of life, as well as our levels 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 to a 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 of 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 diseases, 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 may be psychosomatic. This means that the patient may not need medical treatment, but a course of psychotherapy.

Psychosomatics: what’s causing your sore throat?

Unresolved personality problems or stress may have consequences in the form of various diseases, from migraine attacks to sudden blood pressure spikes. Sore throat is one of the manifestations of psychological discomfort. If you have symptoms such as sore throat, even a 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 an underlying risk for psychosomatic diseases, but each of us forms certain behavioral stereotypes, which are subconscious reactions to difficult life situations, from early childhood. In other words, if a person is used to feeling extreme stress even from minor troubles, if he/she worries over any kind of mistake, and keeps silent about problems, this may become his or her personal way of responding to life occurrences.

In such a way negative emotions accumulate, and there is a risk that sooner or later the body will turn on a protective reaction in the form of a cold or sore throat. 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 the color of tranquility. Keeping silent about our concerns is not easy, but this is how potential problems with psychosomatic illnesses may arise.

The psychologist Louise Hay, identifies several causes of sore throat associated with psychosomatics in her book. [3] We should state that this is only a theory and 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 the public speaking situation. Decreased local immunity is usually a protective reaction so that bacteria can affect the throat.

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

2. Unspoken feelings

Some people are silent about their feelings so as not to hurt those of other people. 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 may be explained by a protective reaction of the body, a sign that your willpower should take a little rest. In such a case, the 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 with its own ways. Tonsillitis in adults often has a psychosomatic origin, because sore throat can become a quite good reason for taking time off and self-treating.

This problem will not disappear until you find a better job, one that is truly interesting with exciting projects.

4. Inability to accept life changes

Sore throats may also be related to sudden changes in life that a person is forced to accept. For example, an individual may not want to move to another city but must do this due to certain circumstances. In this situation, internal imbalance, and discomfort which requires a way out, often provokes the development of diseases such as tonsillitis.

5. Writer’s block

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


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 the person’s own needs. This often happens to artists who are prone to the psychosomatic ENT diseases.

Psychosomatic throat disorders

Doctors have identified 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 for 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 a characteristic of self-doubtful people who are trying to maintain relations with others 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 may not be able to speak at all for some time. Tonsillitis caused by psychosomatic causes can appear 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 psychosomatic laryngitis in adults and children with complete or partial loss of voice is the fact that a person is unable to express him/herself or doesn’t show true emotions. Such a person is constantly worried and overwhelmed by fears. “People will think I’m a jerk”, “They will laugh at me”, “She will think that I am unqualified in this field”, “He will be offended by 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 individual is constantly forced to restrain him/herself. [4]

As a result, the body starts a protective reaction in the form of laryngitis. In fact this is the exact 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, psychosomatic pharyngitis in children and adults is often caused by numerous fears, increased anxiety, and difficulties in self-realization. A person has huge internal potential, but due to self-doubt, does not find a way to bring all the ideas to life. [5]

By weakening the local immunity, the body gives the person a chance to think about his/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 an inability to defend opinion and stand up for him/herself. This illness can also indicate constantly suppressed anger and an unwillingness to accept current life circumstances. [5]


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

Psychosomatic sore throat in children

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

Recently I came across an interesting book written by a specialist in psychosomatic medicine. After reading it, 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 have had very tense relations and we were always fight among ourselves. I have looked at the facts – and normally our child feels sick after our serious quarrels. And then, while Vitya is ill, our relationship becomes calmer. During these periods, we give more attention to our son and enjoy our family’s idyll. But then everything repeats again and our child has a sore throat against the background of psychosomatics because of 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 marital relationship, 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 rather than 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 often afraid to look ridiculous in front of others, which contributes to the phobia of making mistakes, even the smallest ones. Therefore, a disease that makes communication difficult becomes a good reason for being silent. By weakening the immune system, the body creates more comfortable conditions for the child. [2]

Psychologists have identified one more possible cause of psychosomatic sore throat in children, – forced changes in life that literally turn the child’s world upside down. Examples of this include moving to another city or transferring from one school to another. In such situations, children often have difficulties in accepting the new circumstances and they feel really scared. So, the disease helps them keep safe 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 are likely to get sick more often. The body thus does a favor to the child because parents usually lavish attention on their children when they are sick.

In addition, in the psychosomatics of children’s throat diseases, the parenting style often plays an essential role. Over-protection, excessive demands, emotional coldness, or excessive severity – all of these can make your children unsure of themselves or anxious and consequently 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 a healthy life attitude.

Psychosomatic sore throat in adults

“My husband is a hypochondriac. He is 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 his behavior and I go 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 the management. He quit loudly, and, apparently, lost faith in himself. For several months he didn’t even try to find a new job, but just sat around doing nothing. Over time I started persuading him to look for a job, submit his CV and attend 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, and a runny nose. He needed treatment, obviously, but after recovering he fell ill again. As soon as I reminded him to look for a job, my husband immediately became sick once more. And all this despite the fact that he had always had a 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 have the time to attend interviews.

Later, I realized that my husband had psychosomatic throat disorders. You know, I think 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 adult psychosomatic throat disorders in most cases are related to unspoken feelings or a constant need to keep silent about grievances. For one reason or another, a person tries to keep their feelings inside, either afraid to hurt the feelings of others, self-consciousness, or a fear of destroying relationships. These restrictions, in fact, lead 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 performing a boring but necessary job. It is difficult to find a good reason for skipping a day or two, but a cold may serve as the most suitable reason 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 a throat disorder. [3]


Moreover, people often overreach themselves with responsibilities at work, with numerous projects or burning deadlines. A person may stubbornly move towards the goal, ignoring psychological comfort. So, the body ‘saves’ the emotional balance by weakening the immunity, because a cold is a kind of respite, even if it needs treatment.

How to treat psychosomatic throat disorders

Sometimes it happens that a patient consults a doctor complaining of constant sore throat, but his/her diagnostic tests are normal, with no abnormalities in the body functioning. Thus, from a medical point of view, the person is healthy. But this is where psychosomatics come in. The problem may require not medical treatment, but a course of psychotherapy. This 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 ailment 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 have provoked the development of your disease. The root cause may not always be identified immediately – for example, a patient may tell a therapist that he/she had been afraid of public speaking since childhood, but, it is often very difficult to identify the chain of associated elements that have caused the psychosomatic symptoms.

Psychosomatic throat disorders invariably indicate the need for personality changes. It is important to overcome fears and hang-ups and 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 way of looking at old problems, relieve increased anxiety and help you become more stress resistant. The training is not designed to deeply unravel the tangle of previous concerns, its purpose is to eliminate or alleviate your current symptoms. Sometimes, all you need is to change the focus of your attention and separate your emotional and physiological states. In such cases, 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 an extremely important skill for maintaining good mental health.

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 as a guarantee of achieving results when applying the described treatment methods in each case, even if such information was confirmed by previous medical practice.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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