Are Health Issues Real or Imagined?
Mysteries of the Body and Mind

Despite access to an astronomical amount of online information about health, including stories, documentaries, and articles, for some reason I still love old books that tell of our approach to illness back when western medicine was much less sophisticated than it is at present.

One book that I especially love is Religion and Health by James J. Walsh, first published in 1920. I’ve had my copy for some years, but I gasped when I just checked the price on Amazon. A newer reprint is $36 plus shipping, while a first edition is upwards of $900. How I happened to get my original copy of this book remains a mystery to me, but having read it numerous times, I decided to discuss one of the more interesting chapters, “Dreads,” and use it to address an age-old question: “Are health issues real or imagined?”

Before we go on to explore if some of our ongoing health issues are, in fact, imaginary, and how we can help ourselves, I would like to quote from a small section of the book, where the author states that some of the injuries that our soldiers suffered from during WWI were found to be imaginary!

From Religion and Health:

“After loss of sleep and irregular eating, wet feet for days then having to withstand an enemy attack, often at dawn after some fearsome barrage had been laid down on them for hours, it is no wonder that in many cases men’s nervous control did give way. They were not cowards, they were not malingerers; on the contrary they were often brave men who had volunteered for the service, giving up important positions at home to take up the defense of their country; and yet after a time their dreads dominated them and they suffered from all sorts of symptoms.

“Some of them could not see, a number of them could not hear; some could not use their legs, and some could not employ their arms properly; some walked with a limp, some had tremors that made their usefulness as soldiers absolutely at an end. Nearly all of them had a series of complaints which they wanted to detail in all their minuteness to every physician who came near.”

He also details why these conditions bore the name “shell shock.” In time, this term was dropped and no longer used. (We now call it post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD). It was believed that some of these men were imagining their injuries as a result of mentally reliving their experiences. Nevertheless, with the help of various types of therapy, which Dr. Walsh participated in, some of these men were made whole with medical, psychological, and, most importantly, religious means, which I discuss below.

Let’s take a closer look at two states of mind that some of us may experience as a result of health traumas and/or PTSD. Unfortunately, the two mental disorders as described below may produce paralyzing effects, as described in the book. In many cases they have made us hermits in a world that is poorly understood by our family and friends.

#1. Hypochondria

What we used to call hypochondria is now called hypochondriasis, which is a frequently diagnosed mental disorder. The particular symptoms are easy to spot since these people experience serious, ongoing fear and anxiety day and night. This person is convinced that they have a serious illness of one kind or another even if they’ve been assured by medical tests and reliable medical, allopathic, and/or holistic practitioners that they do not have the illness or illnesses they believe they are suffering from.

The interesting part of hypochondriasis is that it is usually not related to just one particular issue, such as back pain or some other static disorder. A person with this affliction believes that every little pain, cough, or other physical sensation is in fact a clear indication of some serious disorder. They’re convinced that what they’re feeling is cancer, tuberculosis, and/or some other malady they’ve heard or read about, imagining their symptoms are the onset of a serious condition! Naturally, this requires frequent visits to numerous doctors, and it’s difficult to convince the person that their symptoms are imaginary. Living with a hypochondriac is difficult to say the least, but keep reading. There is hope.

#2. Psychosomatic Illness

In researching psychosomatic illness, I was very impressed with the words of neurologist Susan O’Sullivan in this interview. I think it’s best to simply quote her, but I hope you take the opportunity to read the entire article.

“‘A psychosomatic illness is a disorder in which people have real disability with significant levels of suffering, but where the disability cannot be explained by medical tests or by physical examination,’ says O’Sullivan…

“Although the illness is commonly the result of an existing psychological condition or experience of trauma, psychosomatic illness manifests itself unconsciously—often leaving patients confused and desperate for an explanation of what’s happening…

“‘It’s a very difficult diagnosis for people to accept, and I think that’s completely understandable. First of all, if you develop something like blindness or seizures or paralysis and you go and see a neurologist, your expectation is that they are going to tell you that you have a brain disease or a nerve disease,’ says O’Sullivan…

“To be told that your brain is perfectly intact and that the problem is more likely to be psychological can come as a ‘terrible shock.’”

(There’s that word again: “shock.”)

Techniques Dr. Walsh Used to Make These Men Whole Again

Medical Treatment

Since Dr. Walsh was a highly acclaimed MD, he first performed a complete physical examination using the best-known practices of the time to help determine if the bodily injury was, in fact, a medical problem. If it was a true physical injury, the soldiers were given the best medical care possible. For the most part, unless the injury caused total incapacity, they went back to the field of battle.

Psychological Treatment

Psychology relates to mental issues, including the study of “psychological anguish, psychological disorders, and psychological emotions rather than physical conditions.” According to Psychology Today, there are 400 known variations of psychological disorders. Some treatments for specific phobias, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, have been found to ease or correct these mental states with medication and/or pharmacological substances, which always have serious side effects.

According to the article, safer treatments include cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal,

and psychodynamic therapy. (Personal note: All of these treatments are necessarily subject to the skills and effectiveness of the doctor to reach into and affect the depth of the mental state and, hopefully, to bring about some limited relief—but a 100% cure is rarely possible.

Religion as Treatment

Dr. Walsh found inspiration in the healing philosophy of figures such as Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. As detailed at

One November day an old alcoholic friend, Ebby Thatcher, paid him (Bill W.) a visit. Thatcher was sober and had come to tell Wilson why. He had had a religious experience. Members of an organization called the Oxford Group had visited him in jail, where he had been incarcerated for drunkenness, and he had yielded his life to God. The desire to drink was gone, he said. His life was changed.”

That religious experience was described in his own words, and I strongly invite you to read about this fascinating out-of-body experience at the link above. It is one of those mysteries I reference in the title of this article.

Dr. Walsh also details the many miraculous cures at Lourdes, where to this date there is no earthly explanation of how they occurred, despite many scientific studies.

Why Does Religion Work When Other Treatments May Not?

When Dr. Walsh determined that the disorders reported by these broken soldiers was not a real medical issue after resorting to counseling and other methods, he found that if the soldier was able to return to his religious faith and/or embrace God’s healing power as the antidote to his imaginary problems, his mental state was profoundly affected to the positive.

I too abandoned my childhood faith. But later in life, in the midst of many horrific experiences, I found my way back. And I too experienced a type of out-of-body experience that, in my humble opinion, effected an immediate 180-degree turn in my life, and solutions abounded.

Too long a story to detail here, but as I see it, the idea is that religion and turning to God, as we understand Him, can lead us to providential energies and graces that we simply do not understand. Yes, they are there for us if we can come to believe. Possibly for the first time, I came to realize that I needed a remedy not available from any earthly power. I hope that if you are in any mental distress, you can also turn to God.

In closing, I would also like to emphasize that although there is great power in religion, which I believe can help us resolve our most serious mental problems, we must also remember that we are physical beings, and by that same power (God), we must tend to our health. A profoundly learned man, Dr. Royal Lee, gave us some genuine mental health supplements, and I encourage seeking the right dosages from your Standard Process practitioner. 

Food-Grade Supplements that Support Mental Health

Always remember the role nutrition plays in your mental health. For example, read “Historical Guideposts to Mental Health” by Dr. Lee or “B Vitamins Play Important Roles in Mental Health Care” in Psychology Today. 

Neuroplex combines synergistic ingredients to support the nervous and endocrine systems. 

Ribonucleic Acid (RNA), derived from yeast, supports cell replication, growth, and protein synthesis.

Orchex has a potent calming effect that helps maintain emotional balance. Encourages mental clarity, enhances the ability to relax, and allows greater adaptability to life’s stresses.

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Afterthoughts from the Traditional Cook

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
—from the “Serenity Prayer” by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)

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Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.

Images from iStock/Willowpix (main), AlexStepanov (soldiers), ijeab (man praying). 

Maria Atwood, CNHP

Maria Atwood is a semiretired Certified Natural Health Professional and Weston A. Price Chapter Leader in Colorado Springs, CO. Visit her website at Also check out Maria’s Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD (also available as an e-learning course) and be sure to follow her Tips from the Traditional Cook blog.
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