An In-Depth Look into Somatic Symptom Disorder and the Link to Anxiety
Somatic symptom disorder can be a debilitating condition that makes social interactions, daily life and even leaving the house some of the hardest things to do. With constant thoughts and feelings plaguing you with worries about illness, real or imagined, your fears leave you trapped in a cycle of seeking physical remedies when the true issue is rooted in mental health.
If you think you may suffer from somatic symptom disorder or want to learn more, then read on for an in-depth definition of the condition, its symptoms and how you can seek proper help.
What are Somatic Symptoms?
Somatic symptom disorder is characterised as an extreme focus on physical symptoms like shortness of breath, pain or fatigue which causes intense emotional distress and can make it difficult to live a normal life. The reaction a person with this disorder exhibits to the symptoms they feel is not a reasonable response. They often believe that their pain is much worse than it is or that it signifies a serious illness. This intense reaction is what makes this a mental health issue and not a normal response to an illness.
Someone with this disorder will often think the worst about their symptoms and frequently seek medical care as they search for an explanation even when severe conditions have been excluded. Concerns around their health can become the central focus of their life, making it hard for them to carry out their normal daily activities, leading to an obsession and sometimes even a disability.
A person with somatic symptom disorder has excessive thoughts and concerns around possible medical issues. Whether or not their symptoms relate to a diagnosed medical condition, the person automatically believes that they are sick even if all doctors and tests prove that they are not. The emphasis of this disorder is on the extent to which the thoughts, feelings and behaviours are excessive or out of proportion, highlighting the mental impact on the sufferer.
What is the link to Anxiety?
As this disorder is based upon excessive thoughts, feelings and behaviours related to physical symptoms, it can be connected to anxiety and therefore can be treated. Before we look at the benefits of therapy for people suffering from this disorder, we will first try to understand the symptoms of this disorder in more depth and how they relate to anxiety.
Pain is often the most common physical symptom that causes disabling thoughts and feelings. These usually include continually worrying about potential illness, which can make daily living hard as you try to navigate life with the idea of illness, germs and potential danger at every corner. People can become reclusive and rarely leave the house. Along with this, people may also view normal physical sensations as a sign of severe physical illness or fear that symptoms are dangerous even when there is no evidence to support their worries. As a result, they can also feel that medical evaluations and treatments have not been adequate and therefore they are still ill, even if they were not to begin with and frequent medical examinations can make this condition even worse.
There are even serious physical side effects to this disorder, such as constantly checking your body for abnormalities and believing that physical activity could damage your body, leading to a reduction in bodily health. Over time, you can even become unresponsive to medical treatment or sensitive to medication side effects due to overusing over the counter drugs.
All of these symptoms can be related and compared with anxiety as the sufferer is essentially having misplaced anxiety around their well-being. People can be anxious for various reasons, such as large crowds or small rooms, and this is just another form of anxiety directed at medical health. Because it is anxiety, it is a mental health issue which can become worse over time if left untreated, hence the constant worrying thoughts and feelings.
What can I do if I suffer from somatic symptom disorder?
If you suffer from somatic symptom disorder, you can be treated. As a mental health illness, it is something that you can work to improve on your own with adequate support and advice from friends and family, or you could seek outside assistance from a counsellor to get expert and understanding help. Therapy can help you to get a hold on your anxieties, working to banish the thoughts and feelings that plague you daily and force you to act out odd behaviours.
Counsellors, using their extensive knowledge, research and experience, can also provide you with tips on how to control and prevent your abnormal behaviours and feelings related to this disorder. This can make getting out of the house and living each day without the fear of illness much more straightforward, allowing you to interact more and get a handle on your life socially. With personal, one-to-one sessions focusing on your development, therapy can be the boost you need to make your journey to good mental health more manageable.
Don’t let somatic symptom disorder control your life and dictate how you spend your days. Instead, recognise your issue and learn more about the disorder and how you can start working towards a better life. If you want to learn more about my services as a counsellor, then contact me today.