The term ‘somatic’ comes from the Greek word ‘soma’ which means ‘body’. Thus, somatic symptoms are those which are related to the body.
Somatic symptoms can thus properly be defined as ‘symptoms involving physical problems and/or concerns about medical symptoms.’
Some examples of somatic symptoms are:
- Pain- this includes areas such as- chest, arms, legs, back, abdomen.
- Neurological symptoms such as- headaches, weakness, dizziness, fainting.
- Digestive symptoms such as- abdominal pain or bowel problems, diarrhoea, incontinence, and constipation.
- Sexual symptoms such as- pain during sexual activity or painful periods.
Somatic symptoms can become a disorder when they interfere with your ability to live a normal daily life.
What causes Somatic Symptoms?
Somatic symptoms can be caused from a number of different factors such as:
- Genetic and biological factors, such as an increased sensitivity to pain
- Family influence, which may be genetic or environmental, or both
- Personality trait of negativity, which can impact how you identify and perceive illness and bodily symptoms
- Decreased awareness of or problems processing emotions, causing physical symptoms to become the focus rather than the emotional issues
- Learned behavior — for example, the attention or other benefits gained from having an illness; or “pain behaviors” in response to symptoms, such as excessive avoidance of activity, which can increase your level of disability
What is Somatic Therapy?
Somatic therapy is a type of body-centered therapy. This kind of therapy looks at the connection of the mind and body and uses both psychotherapy and physical therapies for holistic healing. Thus, it is unlike the other standard types of therapies such as CBT which only focuses on the mind.
In addition to talk therapy, somatic therapy practitioners use mind-body exercises and other physical techniques to help release the pent-up tension that is negatively affecting your physical and emotional wellbeing.
Examples of somatic therapy include: breath work, meditation, visualization, massage, grounding, dance, and/or sensation awareness work, vocal work, Body-mind centering, Kinetic awareness, ayurveda, yoga, postural integration, reiki massage, acupressure
When is Somatic Therapy used?
Somatic therapy can be used in both individual as well as group therapy settings. This type of therapy can be used to help address both physical and psychological symptoms of certain mental health issues, including:
- Trauma and abuse
- Problems with relationships
- Sexual function
NOTE: It is however important to note that you are in control of your experience with somatic therapy. Before you start working with a somatic therapist, you can speak with them about what techniques and approaches they like to use to see if you’re a good fit. As for how these techniques work, they all have one thing in common, which is that they require you to connect with your body.
To summarize, the idea of using somatic therapy is that once physical symptoms are resolved, psychological symptoms will then be much easier to resolve with the help of somatic therapy.