I recall in my school-age years, I had so much anxiety around attending school. I would feel it in my body. For me, it would be abdominal upset and sweaty palms. As time went on, I recall feeling fatigued throughout every day. In later years, I’ve learned some of what I was experiencing could have been in the perimeter of somatization.
What is somatization?
It can be explained as someone having physical symptoms by which no known physical disorder exists and these symptoms last at least 6 months. Sounds mysterious huh? Well, to further explain, somatization is currently termed as Somatic Symptom Disorder and can exhibit in the body as pain (very common), gastrointestinal upset, sexual symptoms (such as low sex drive or increased pain with sexual intercourse), or fatigue.
The other part about someone experiencing this disorder is the person either has no explainable cause after having numerous doctor and emergency room visits or they have been diagnosed with some condition but is in extreme distress beyond what would be classified are normal. Regardless of which occurs, the person experiences extreme distress that takes away from their quality of life. For many people, this weighs on them financially due to medical costs stemming from frequent visits to the hospital. I need to say that people experiencing this sees this as real and is not to be taken lightly.
So, what type of support can be offered to an individual living in this experience?
There are antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that can manage symptoms for some people. I, however, like to focus on the root cause of an issue. For many people experiencing somatic symptom disorder, there has been some form of neglect, physical or sexual abuse in childhood. A person could have also experienced a chaotic lifestyle or trauma. Some people who have had a chronic illness in childhood could be more susceptible as well. For some, having heightened attention to their bodily sensations can be the issue. In these situations, a therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be beneficial. In this type of therapy, a person can change their patterns of thinking. This can help them change how they feel, thus, can lessen and even resolve symptoms.