Psychogenic Shock: Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

The circulatory system is made up of the body parts responsible for moving blood, hormones, and nutrients through the body.

The system results from three other methods (cardiovascular, systemic, and pulmonary) that work together to keep the body stable and healthy in homeostasis.

A shock due to emotional stress or seeing an injury or accident is called psychogenic shock.

It is a medical term for the psychogenic shock that may look like reflex syncope or epileptic seizure but is not related to either. During a psychogenic shock, people lose some control of their bodies.

Causes of psychogenic shock

The medical profession is gradually beginning to recognize and understand the causes of psychogenic shocks. It is accepted that it is not caused by physical problems and occurs for different reasons.

A psychogenic shock is likely to occur when there is a temporary problem with how the brain works.

The brain can become “overloaded” and “shut down” for a short time when faced with some bad feeling, situation, thought, or memory.


Although stress is believed to play a role in these attacks, people can pass out at times when they are not feeling particularly stressed.

Sometimes the first attacks are related to a disturbing or terrifying experience or some other significant loss or change. These experiences can be recent or past.

Sometimes it’s not clear why the attacks started, or they seem to have started just when some of the stress in life was getting better.

Stress can also make it difficult for people to overcome their attacks once they have started. Examples include relationship problems, health problems, grief, financial worries, or even the stress of living with psychogenic shock.

It has become clear that psychogenic shocks are not uncommon among students who struggle with the stress of exams and school life, peer pressure, and worries about landing their first job.

These blackouts often become much less of a problem after college life.

Role of stress in psychogenic shock

It is widespread for people to think there must be a physical cause for psychogenic shocks. They are physical symptoms, after all.

However, there are many examples of how emotional stress can cause physical reactions in the body. These include blushing when you’re embarrassed, feeling “butterflies” in your stomach when nervous, and having a headache when you’ve been worrying or having a bad day.

Another familiar idea is that someone faints when surprised. When emotional stress is particularly severe or has been going on for a long time, more serious physical problems can arise.

In some cases, this leads to disability. There are many conditions in which stress is believed to play a role, including chronic fatigue, postural tachycardia syndrome, non-cardiac chest pain, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Psychogenic shocks are caused by excessive stress that can control the brain and cause the body to collapse without an organic pathological cause.

Symptoms of a psychogenic shock

Attacks can involve:

  • Fainting and falling to the ground.
  • Sudden movements of the arms or legs.
  • Losing control of your bladder or bowel.
  • Go blank or absent.
  • Feeling out of touch with your surroundings.
  • Inability to remember the attack.

Some of these symptoms can cause people to mistake these seizures for other causes of fainting, such as reflex syncope or epilepsy.

Diagnosis of a psychogenic shock

A psychogenic shock can be challenging to diagnose. Most of the time, it occurs in young adults due to stress or anxiety.

However, the link between blackouts and stress may not be obvious. In most cases, a psychogenic shock is an involuntary reaction of the brain to pressure or distress. Psychogenic shocks sometimes develop after people have suffered abuse or trauma.

Sometimes they are a reaction to a horrible experience in the past that a patient has not been able to accept. Specialists in psychogenic shock treatment (such as electrophysiologists and neurologists) can make a precise diagnosis when psychogenic shock occurs.

Although a psychogenic shock looks like an epileptic seizure or reflex syncope, there are small but significant differences between these types of attacks:

  • Psychogenic shocks tend to be numerous, often occurring several times a day or at the same time every day. This differs from reflex syncope (vasovagal syncope, neurocardiogenic syncope), generally no more common than four to five times a year. —- During an episode of psychogenic shock, the eyes may be tightly closed with a flutter of the lid, while during reflex syncope or epilepsy, the eyes are often open.
  • Patients can experience psychogenic shock when lying on their back.
  • Typical symptoms associated with reflex syncopes may be absent, such as looking pale or sweating.
  • A psychogenic shock often lasts much longer than reflex syncope.

An etiologic diagnosis can usually be made with a careful history and physical examination, and a few simple tests.

In some cases, special tests such as electroencephalography, electrocardiography, or metabolic studies may be necessary to confirm the suspicion of etiology.

Treatment of psychogenic shock

It may be that not all psychogenic shocks or non-epileptic seizures are caused by stress, but more research is needed to answer this.

Psychogenic shocks are believed to result from severe stress or psychological trauma on the brain rather than from any physical or physiological cause; treatment is primarily aimed at stress management.

The general recommendation is to control stress levels and practice the following:

  • Dealing with useless sources of stress before they pile up and become a bigger problem.
  • Observe the areas of life that can be managed by improving the situation or changing how it is responded to.
  • Consider significant changes like changing jobs or moving home.
  • Resolve any personal conflict, childhood trauma, or relationship problems by communicating honestly and seeking advice.
  • Spend time doing things that you enjoy.
  • Try to avoid cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine.

The initial use of natural products is recommended; if it is impossible to control it, it is recommended to see a doctor to avoid crises that could trigger a psychogenic shock in the future.

The recommended medications for stress management are sertraline and Prozac, among others.