Somatize: What Are Its Symptoms And How Can We Deal With It?

What is somatization and how does it appear? What are the most frequent symptoms? Who can suffer from this disorder? Discover what somatization consists of and how we can deal with it.

What is somatization? How can we alleviate its symptoms?

Somatizing is, according to the definition of the RAE, transform psychic problems in organic symptoms involuntarily. Thus, the body and mind are connected, although for years it was believed that they were not.

There are times when a person experiences physical symptoms in the form of pain, fatigue, etc., but when they go to the doctor, he or she does not find any pathology that corroborates these symptoms. Although different medical tests are performed, no identifiable origin is found, but the pain or ailment significantly interferes in the person’s life, both on a personal, social and even work level. Thus begins an emotionally draining journey of searching for a diagnosis. People who suffer from a somatic disease and in these situations they feel lost and misunderstood and end up distrusting professionals after carrying out multiple unsuccessful medical tests. This is where somatization comes in.

What is somatizing emotions?

It must be said that the somatization disorders or a somatic disease They are not inventions of the person, that is, they should not be confused with factitious personality disorder. While in the latter the person deliberately produces physical symptoms to receive medical attention or assume the sick role, in somatization disorder there is none of that. By somatizing emotions, the person believes they have a physical illness (that has not been caused in any way) of which doctors cannot find the origin in something organic but the symptoms are completely real.

This type of affectation is included in the Diagnostic and statistical manual of the classification of mental disorders of the American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5, as somatic symptom disorder and is characterized by the presence of symptoms with or without medical explanation. Furthermore, these symptoms are usually persistent and usually manifest along with thoughts and feelings that cause discomfort that interfere with your life.

In some cases, it is possible to diagnose a medical illness that is present in parallel with the somatization disorder Furthermore, somatizing usually leads to the appearance of stress, depressive states or anxiety disorders due to difficulties in finding answers to what is happening, which causes frustration.

Although a somatic disorder It is a very complex disease, the reality is that most people experience somatization at some point in their lives. In this way, vomiting due to pneumonia, a headache due to excess stress or feeling physically weak after a trauma or a bad experience can be some examples of psychomatizing our emotions. But when these somatic symptoms are prolonged over time and cause distress in the person who suffers from it, this is when we are dealing with a somatization disorder. People who experience somatic illnesses feel very frustrated around somatization since many people perceive their symptoms as imaginary or false.

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When is it a somatization disorder?

When is it considered a somatization disorder?

There is somatization disorder which encompasses symptoms of both somatization and hypochondria as pain disorder. In this way, this somatization disorder is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). People who have this disorder have the following symptoms:

  • Obsession with symptoms

People who suffer from somatize emotions or somatization tend to obsess over all the symptoms behind the disease. So much so that they can devote a lot of time and energy to this health problem.

  • Anxiety

On many occasions the somatic anxiety It can cause stagnation in the person who suffers from somatization. In this way, anxiety is usually very disproportionate to the symptoms.

  • Identification with the problem

In the most serious cases of somatization disorder and somatizations caused in the person who suffers from it, he ends up structuring his life around this problem. So much so that the person may even deny that their somatic symptoms or the somatic illness in question have psychological roots.

These may be some of the symptoms that individuals with a somatization disorder In most cases, people who suffer from this somatic illness should go to a professional psychologist to remedy their pathology.

How does this disorder appear? Causes

It is believed that the cause of somatization It is a state of continuous stress, long periods of anxiety pronounced or persistent emotional problems with poor emotional management. That is, it affects people who have focused on being decisive, have not stopped in the face of the difficulties that have appeared on an emotional level and, therefore, have not worked on or elaborated on them.

“In other words, when a person does not listen to their heart, the body stops them from doing so.”

Let’s look at two examples so that it is clearer what somatization is and what its causes are. On the one hand, we find a person who supports high levels of stress at work, does not rest the hours he needs, leaves work and continues working at home, etc. When this period of stress finally ends and she is supposed to be able to enjoy her vacation, she falls ill. On the other hand, another example: a woman spends two years taking care of her terminally ill husband without worrying about herself or taking a minute. When a person dies, physical symptoms of some illness appear. These two cases mean that when the mind relaxes the body demands its attention and shows the consequences.

Sometimes the symptoms occur when the person is still in the stressful or persistent anxious period, not necessarily when everything is over. Even so, there are some main causes that can cause one of these. somatic disorders

  • Biological sensitivity

People who suffer from somatization They tend to have greater sensitivity to certain sensations, such as pain or nausea. In this way, people who tend to be more sensitive to a body perception can misinterpret certain psychological symptoms such as anxiety in the throat or emotional diarrhea, among others.

  • Trauma

Various research shows that people who have suffered a trauma can cause high levels of cortisol and other stress-related hormones every time they remember or experience a similar experience.

  • Defense mechanism

Somatizing emotions can be a defense mechanism that protects people from a situation that overwhelms them emotionally. So much so that the psychological symptoms can affect the person so much that they cannot even consciously face them.

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These may be some of the main causes of somatic symptoms. In most cases, the solution to one of these somatic disorders It involves going to a professional psychologist.

Symptoms of somatization

What are the most common symptoms of somatization?

There can be a wide variety of symptoms and they can show up in different ways. The symptoms of somatize They can be very specific such as pain in some part of the body or more non-specific such as skin discomfort, fatigue, slight discomfort in the joints… The symptoms can be confused with normal bodily sensations, especially in elderly people, but generally not It means that there is a serious illness behind it. However, according to specialists they must have two points in common:

  1. At least one somatic symptom (or more than one) that causes concern or significant interference in the daily life of the affected person.
  2. Too many thoughts, feelings, anxiety, or behaviors related to the symptoms.

And as for the way of manifesting, the most frequent types of somatization They are very diverse and range from pain in some part of the body to allergic reactions, sexual problems or gastrointestinal disorders. Let’s look at some of the most common:

  • Headaches
  • Back pains
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems: burning, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Period pains
  • Pain during sexual relations or erectile dysfunction

Can everyone suffer from this problem?

According to an article published by the Vall d’Hebron Hospital in Barcelona, ​​the prevalence of somatization disorder in the general population it is around 5-7%. Usually more common in women than in men and it usually starts at the beginning of adulthood.

Generally there is a personality pattern that makes the appearance of this disorder more likely. Therefore, not everyone can suffer somatization, although anyone who experiences constant stress situations can occasionally somatize without suffering from said disorder. This last fact is relatively common.

The personality pattern is emotional dependence, dependent on social relationships who often feel that the support they receive is insufficient. The person wants to be emotionally cared for in an excessive way and it usually entails the wear and tear of the family who devotes themselves to the patient. They tend to be people who find it difficult to assimilate that the problem is psychological and continue tirelessly searching for different professionals to find their medical diagnosis, going so far as to exaggerate the symptoms because they experience the situation in a dramatic way.

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How to stop somatizing?

There are a series of tips that you can follow to try to alleviate the somatization through your attitude. Despite this, in many cases you should go to a professional psychologist to alleviate all the symptoms of a somatic disorder or psychomatization.

1. Examine your physical symptoms

It is important that a person who has some of the examples of somatization that we have presented, start by analyzing where that perception or that physical pain comes from. It may be that they are in certain situations where excess stress or anxiety is perceived.

2. Reduce your stress

There are many people who suffer from somatizations due to having excess stress in their lives. In this way, somatic illness can be combated by reducing the level of stress to which we are exposed. There are relaxation or meditation techniques that are very effective in alleviating the stress in our lives.

How to alleviate somatization?

3. Learn to cope with physical symptoms

The somatization It produces certain physical symptoms that can be havoc for the life of the person who suffers from them. In these cases it may be a good attitude to try to alleviate these problems through infusions, or by having a much healthier lifestyle. Although this will not make them disappear, it can weaken your pain.

4. Reduce worry around symptoms

On many occasions the somatic diseases They are more harmful because of the worry around the symptoms. Therefore, it may be essential to try to reduce this type of negative or obsessive thoughts around somatism.

5. Get out of your comfort zone

Sometimes people who suffer from a somatization or psychomatizing An emotion can affect your life due to the symptoms you perceive. In this way, it is vital to try to reduce these avoidances as much as possible and try to leave the comfort zone without letting it interfere with our lives.

6. Work within yourself

One of the keys to leaving a somatic illness behind is mainly to work on mental and physical well-being. In this way, by balancing our psychological health we can leave any of these behind. somatic disorders

All these exercises to stop somatizing They can be effective in mild or moderate cases. Despite this, it will be essential to consult with a psychologist if the pain and negative emotions get worse.

Somatization treatment

The first step is important to be taken by the doctor who is treating that person, looking at their history and medical tests performed. It is important to listen to the person, attend to them and avoid phrases like: “you have nothing” or “those are nerves.” We must remember that the person’s suffering is real, so we must help raise awareness by carrying out psychological therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy while being accompanied at a medical level through antidepressants or anxiolytics that usually relieve the symptoms.

The ideal would be a combination of pharmacological treatment with psychological support, although in most cases these people rule out psychological support since they refuse to accept that the problem comes from there. Therefore, the ideal treatment for cases in which the person tends to somatize It should consist of becoming aware of the problem and then carrying out psychological therapy.