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How Relational Stress Affects the Body

How Relational Stress Affects the Body

Dr. David Hawkins and his son Dr. Tyson Hawkins discuss the topic of how relational stress affects the body, which they have written about in their book In Sickness and in Health.

How Relational Stress Affects the Body

The connection between emotional distress and physical health is a topic that has intrigued professionals in various fields for decades. However, it’s only recently that we have started delving deeper into the intricate relationship between our emotional well-being and our physical health.

In this article, we will explore the profound impact of relational stress on the body, shedding light on how emotionally destructive marriages and unresolved trauma can manifest as physical symptoms. We will draw from the insightful conversations between two experts, Dr. David Hawkins and his son Dr. Tyson Hawkins, who have observed the correlation between emotional distress and physical issues in their clinical practices.

Recognizing the Link Between Emotional Distress and Physical Symptoms

The exploration into the link between emotional distress and physical symptoms began when one practitioner working with trauma survivors and individuals in emotionally destructive marriages noticed a striking trend. Many of these individuals were not just struggling emotionally but were also experiencing a range of physical symptoms. To investigate this further, they consulted another practitioner who had been noticing similar patterns in their clinical practice.

Dr. David Hawkins and Dr. Tyson Hawkins, who specialize in clinical psychology and primary care medicine, embarked on a journey to unravel the connection between emotional and physical health. Their aim was to better understand whether emotional stress resulting from an unhealthy marriage could be a significant factor contributing to physical symptoms and increased diagnoses. While it may not be easy to directly ask, “Is your marriage making you sick?” the evidence suggests that this is indeed a question worth exploring.

The Impact of Emotional Distress on Physical Health

The adverse effects of stress on physical health are well-documented in the field of medicine. Chronic stress has been linked to a host of health issues, including cardiovascular problems, weakened immune systems, and digestive disorders. However, the key question that these practitioners were eager to address was whether the specific stress associated with destructive marriages and unresolved trauma had unique physical manifestations.

PTSD and Complex PTSD: Silent Struggles

One of the primary areas of concern was the occurrence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD in women who were enduring destructive marriages. These relentless, ongoing traumas often went unnoticed, as they were not typically linked to a single traumatic event but rather a constant state of emotional turmoil.

Individuals, especially women, were presenting with an array of physical problems associated with PTSD. These included fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, frequent headaches, and heightened anxiety levels. In essence, their bodies were keeping score of the emotional turmoil they were enduring, manifesting these symptoms as a response to unrelenting stress.

Breaking the Silence in Clinical Practice

Dr. David Hawkins and Dr. Tyson Hawkins acknowledge that addressing the impact of marriage on health is a sensitive and often unexplored topic. Primary care physicians are generally not accustomed to asking patients about their home life, and stress is usually chalked up to being a generic factor affecting one’s health. However, this perspective is changing as medical practitioners are recognizing the importance of understanding the sources of their patients’ stress to provide more comprehensive care.

Asking questions about the sources of stress and exploring the impact of destructive marriages on one’s health is becoming more intentional. This shift in approach aims to help individuals manage their stress in healthier ways and alleviate the physical symptoms that may be directly linked to relational stress.

The Body Keeps Score: How Stress is Stored in the Body

The idea that “the body keeps score” is not a new one. Our bodies have a remarkable ability to store emotional stress and trauma, which can result in a wide range of physical symptoms. As practitioners delve into this, it becomes evident that ongoing, day-to-day stress from destructive relationships can take a toll on the body. The emotional distress, if left unaddressed, can lead to significant physical consequences.

A Unique Approach to Relational Stress

The culmination of these observations has led to the development of a unique approach that combines psychology and medicine to address the complex relationship between relationships and the body. While psychosomatic medicine and psychology are not new fields, this approach specifically examines the role of stress and its impact on physical health, especially in the context of unhealthy marriages.

In their book, In Sickness and In Health, Dr. David Hawkins and his son Dr. Tyson Hawkins offer a comprehensive understanding of the link between relationships and the body. It’s not just a collection of stories but a path to healing, recovery, and hope. By recognizing the profound impact of relational stress on physical health, individuals can take proactive steps to address these issues and improve their overall well-being.


The connection between emotional distress and physical health is an area that deserves further exploration and understanding. Unhealthy marriages and ongoing trauma can manifest as physical symptoms that are often overlooked. Dr. David Hawkins and Dr. Tyson Hawkins in this article have shed light on the intricate relationship between relational stress and physical health, providing a new perspective on how emotional turmoil can lead to physical distress.

Recognizing the importance of addressing these issues in both clinical psychology and primary care medicine is a significant step towards better patient care. By understanding the ways in which the body keeps score of emotional distress, individuals can take proactive steps to manage their stress, alleviate physical symptoms, and work towards a path of healing and recovery.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: 4 Steps to Create Positive Change in Your Relationship

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.



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