The prevalence of ‘mystery illnesses’ among women, ranging from lupus to Hashimoto’s to fibromyalgia, is remarkably high. But why does this primarily affect women?
Well, I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve witnessed numerous supposedly healthy women suffering from chronic ailments. However, the picture became much clearer when my own health began to deteriorate.
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Understanding People Pleasing
People-pleasing tendencies often originate from a longing for acceptance and validation. Our societal norms often dictate that seeking the approval of others is necessary to maintain overall harmony.
This pattern results in chronic traits, such as consistently viewing oneself through the eyes of others. Realistically, it’s impossible to be perfect or to please everyone around us. When someone fails to meet others’ demands at the expense of their own valid needs, it induces significant mental stress, leading to feelings of misery and an overwhelming urge to conform.
Prolonged stress severely impacts mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Left untreated, it can trigger ‘Auto-Immune’ diseases.
In this article, we’ll delve into the mechanism by which our body’s defense—immunity—turns rogue, attacking its own healthy cells. Moreover, we’ll explore why this phenomenon tends to affect women more, particularly those with a strong inclination toward people-pleasing tendencies, shedding light on the impact of stress, psychological patterns, and their influence on health. Alongside this exploration, I’ll also share my personal journey with hypothyroidism, detailing how I developed this disease in my early 20s.
What are Autoimmune Diseases?
Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells, leading to various conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto, fibromyalgia, MS, and lupus. Understanding these ailments is crucial in comprehending their relationship with behavioral patterns.
Medical science is unable to pinpoint the reasons behind the occurrence of these diseases, often claiming that the causes are unknown. Can it be that the incredibly intricate yet remarkable human body system would react abruptly against its own healthy cells without any discernible reason?
The Link Between Stress and Autoimmune Diseases
Stress, a common byproduct of people-pleasing, significantly affects the immune system. we typically operate with our parasympathetic nervous system activated. However, when we perceive a threat—say, when we desire something but fear expressing it due to potential displeasure from others—the body activates the sympathetic nervous system.
This stress response triggers several physical reactions: our heart rate increases, our pupils dilate, our bladder may expand, and there’s a surge of chemicals that directs more energy to our extremities, preparing us for a fight. But what happens if we don’t utilize this heightened energy?
Staying in this stressed state for an extended period disrupts the body’s balance. All the energy is directed towards the stress response, leaving little to no energy available for repair and growth. Chronic stress weakens immune responses, potentially triggering or exacerbating autoimmune conditions in susceptible individuals.
Understanding People Pleasing Behavior
Characterized by an inclination to prioritize others’ needs over one’s own, thinking that we need to adjust, people-pleasing often arises from a deep-seated need for external validation and fear of rejection.
When there is an emotional trauma in childhood or the authority figures of a child never teach that their opinion matters a child learns that it is his responsibility to self-sacrifice to be a good child.
When kids hear parents discriminating between children by appreciating one for demanding less or being an easy child, the other child learns this is what normal is. and this sets a deep belief in making others happy not ourselves.
Connection Between People Pleasing and Autoimmune Diseases
The toll of people-pleasing extends beyond psychological distress. It manifests physically, contributing to elevated stress levels, which, in turn, can exacerbate existing autoimmune conditions or even prompt their onset.
When our bodies make too many stress hormones, in response to not being able to express ourselves, it makes us feel emotions like anger, fear, and sadness. It also makes us feel aggressive, anxious, and insecure. This can lead to pain, suffering, and feeling hopeless or depressed. Many people often focus on these negative thoughts and feelings most of the time.
Repeatedly triggering our stress response, whether due to past, present, or future pressures, disrupts our chemical balance. The prolonged stress from constantly meeting others’ expectations may trigger immune dysregulation, leading us toward our genetic destiny, often marked by a mystery illness.
The cascade of hormones and chemicals released in response to stress can dysregulate certain genes, initiating a domino effect that propels us toward potential diseases. In essence, persistent stress activates genetic pathways steering us toward our predetermined health outcomes.
Hormonal Factors and People Pleasing
Hormonal imbalances induced by chronic stress might further fuel autoimmune disorders, particularly in women. The intricate interplay between stress hormones and the immune system warrants attention in this context.
Personal Story: Navigating People Pleasing and Health
I always heard from my mom that I was a very calm child. I rarely cried a lot, and wherever I was placed, I wouldn’t move much. Looking back at my childhood, I hardly remember doing any silly or playful activities.
During school, I remained a silent child, and even during higher education, I hesitated to share good answers in class, fearing it might disturb my teachers.
This reluctance stemmed from my home’s uncertain environment where saying something displeasing to authority figures meant punishment. You can find more about me in other posts.
I grew up always willing to sacrifice for others’ approval, thinking it was the right thing. I became adept at monitoring others’ emotions, even imagining how my pet cat would feel if I couldn’t take care of her.
My menstrual problems started early, causing severe pelvic pain that once led to unconsciousness. Over time, my symptoms worsened—I stopped menstruating, became extremely sensitive to cold, and experienced mood swings leading to arguments. After various medical tests, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s due to hypothyroidism and PMDD by a psychologist. Surprisingly, my underactive thyroid in my early 20s was linked to my chronic people-pleasing behavior.
As a psychologist myself, I sensed something wasn’t right. I pursued a holistic approach, including a plant-based diet, herbal medicine, and deep meditative work—what I call ‘quantum model reality’ in my blogs.
The emotional expression pushed me to the disease, and I was gaslit when I tried to share my symptoms. I learned how our bodies react to habitual toxic behaviors.
I committed myself to change, reworking my beliefs and rewiring my brain from the habit of constantly monitoring others’ emotions. I’ve realized that feeling bad is a part of being human, and individuals are responsible for their emotions.
Though I’m still on my healing journey, my thyroid is now functioning normally. Despite the option of hormone therapy, I opted to trust in the body’s natural healing capacity to heal by eliminating the factors causing the illness.
Breaking the People Pleasing Cycle
Shifting away from people pleasing involves recognizing behavioral patterns, setting boundaries, and prioritizing self-care. It’s about reclaiming personal autonomy and fostering healthier relationships.
Stress Management Techniques
Incorporating stress-relief practices like meditation, exercise, and mindfulness can mitigate the detrimental effects of chronic stress, bolstering overall well-being.
Seeking Support and Professional Help
Acknowledging the need for assistance is pivotal. Seeking guidance from therapists or support groups facilitates the journey towards breaking the cycle of people pleasing.
Impact of Self-Care on Health
Prioritizing self-care rituals, fostering self-compassion, and embracing individual needs are vital for nurturing physical and mental health, potentially alleviating autoimmune symptoms.
Conclusion: Embracing Authenticity and Health
Here’s a revised version:
“It’s challenging at first; it requires a lot of effort. However, if you don’t change for yourself, enduring health conditions also demands effort. So why not change for good reasons?
I’ve experienced this, and many others are going through similar situations. If the blog has helped you in any way, it would be a goal achieved for me. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments—I’d love to engage with you!
- How does people pleasing affect autoimmune diseases differently in women and men? People pleasing impacts both genders, but studies suggest women may be more prone to autoimmune diseases due to biological, hormonal, and sociocultural factors. Women often face higher societal pressures to prioritize others’ needs, potentially intensifying the impact of people pleasing on their health.
- Can changing people pleasing behavior reverse the effects on health? Yes, altering people pleasing tendencies positively influences health. Setting boundaries, practicing self-care, seeking support, and fostering assertiveness can mitigate the detrimental effects, potentially improving physical and psychological well-being.
- Are there specific autoimmune diseases more closely linked to people pleasing behaviors? While research doesn’t pinpoint specific diseases, studies indicate a correlation between chronic stress from people pleasing and various autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.
- What role do genetics play in the connection between people pleasing and autoimmune diseases? Genetics contribute to autoimmune predispositions, but they don’t solely determine the outcome. Environmental factors, including stress from people pleasing, play a significant role in triggering or exacerbating autoimmune responses.
- How can one differentiate between healthy altruism and harmful people pleasing? Healthy altruism involves genuine empathy and compassion without sacrificing personal boundaries or well-being. Harmful people pleasing stems from fear, seeking validation, and sacrificing personal needs. The key lies in self-awareness, setting boundaries, and ensuring actions align with personal values and well-being.