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Physical Symptoms-Somatization

Somatization, or the conversion of emotional problems into physical symptoms, is a well-documented phenomena that accounts for a large proportion of office visits to physicians, primary care doctors, specialists, and emergency room visits. These disorders are often referred to as “unexplained medical symptoms”, “psychosomatic disorders”, or “somataform disorders.” Regardless of the name, the financial and emotional costs of these disorders are high. These disorders often go undiagnosed for years, resulting in a burden on the system and the patient alike due to unnecessary treatments, testing, hospitalizations, disability, and “revolving door” failed treatments.


These disorders can be broadly classified into either pain or non-pain related symptoms.  Pain-related symptoms would include lower back pains, chest pains, headaches, joint pains, body aches, and stomach/reflux issues. Non-pain-related symptoms include dizziness, chronic fatigue, heart palpitations, weakness, loss of movement, and sexual dysfunctions.

Characteristics of the disorder

•    Headaches
•    Migraine Headaches
•    Chronic Pain
•    Irritable Bowl Syndrome
•    Fibromyalgia

•    Erectile Disorder
•    Chronic Fatigue
•    Nausea
•    GERD
•    Allergies and other immune system difficulties
•    Impotence and other sexual dysfunctions

Woman in Pain


Non-pain-related symptoms include:


  • dizziness,

  • chronic fatigue

  • heart palpitations 

  • weakness 

  • loss of movement

  • sexual dysfunctions

The experience of emotions overcomes somatization: research has shown that if you can experience true feelings (unconscious warded-off emotions) in the moment, the process of somatization is weakened or overcome. The experience of mixed feelings about present and past event removes the anxiety and somatization symptoms. This process is diagnostic. IF we see a drop in symptoms after the experience of feelings, then we have evidence there was a somatization process at work. What we look for in the session:

•    Observation: Note any signs of unconscious tension, somatic distress, or defensiveness from the start of the session.
•    Ask about emotions: “Can you describe a situation where the symptoms get worse? What feelings do you have right now?
•    Distinguish feeling from anxiety or defense: “The tension you had was anxiety, but how did the anger feel?”
•    Observe the physical and behavioral responses in the client when the emotional system is activated.

For More Information, Please Visit the Institute for Emotions and Health:

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