Psychological therapy for somatic symptoms

Dr Lara Lagutina, LondonSE16, UK



    There are several reasons psychological therapy can be helpful for people with somatic problems. One reason is that physical illness always has a psychological impact on the suffering person, often invoking stress, anxiety and other difficult feelings, such as helplessness, anger, frustration, depression or grief. In a similar way, illness always acquires a psychological meaning or significance, affecting the ways we think about ourselves, our relationships with others and our future. All these difficult emotions, negative expectations and fears create more stress, which can in turn exacerbate the symptoms, reduce our ability to cope and generally affect our quality of life.

    Another reason is that sometimes our past traumatic or otherwise difficult experiences exceed our ability to manage them naturally, which can lead to accumulation of stress and subsequent appearance of stress-related somatic symptoms, such as headaches, hypertension or physical pain.

    Psychological therapy may help address the feelings and meanings related to somatic problems in order to support the individual in coping with the impact of the illness, reducing the associated levels of stress and (where this is the case) living with the illness while still maintaining the optimal quality of life and relationships. It is also possible, particularly in case of unexplained medical symptoms, that as a result of psychological work with the underlying stressful feelings, the symptoms are alleviated or resolved.

 See also FAQ, stress, chronic pain, trauma-related symptoms, anxiety and panic attacks

  For information about the practical aspects of therapy, such as length of sessions please see FAQ.


Unexplained Medical Symptoms & Somatic Problems