Emotions & Somatic Symptoms: What Does the Research Say?

This study published June 7, 2019 was a systematic review looking at multiple studies and the role of emotions in somatic (bodily) symptoms. This is the first review to look at the combination of results in 64 studies over the years. The results show a link between emotion regulation and somatic body symptoms. This is what we talk a lot about here at The Pain PT. If there is no structural cause to your pain, we need to move from the physical to the psychological realm. I will be breaking this study down further in a future in YouTube Vid- stay tuned!


“The findings of the 64 articles largely supported the association between somatic symptoms and related disorders (SSD) and disturbances in Emotion Regulation (ER), which are usually shared by different diagnoses of SSD. The results indicate that patients show a reduced engagement with cognitive content of emotions. On the other hand, bodily constituents of ER seem to depict an over-reactive pattern. Similarly, the patients tend to encounter difficulties in flexibly disengaging their (spontaneous) attention from emotional material.”


The findings confirm that patients with SSD encounter ER difficulties. Of particular note, the literature has quite consis- tently shown patients’ dysfunctional knowledge-oriented ER, such as reduced capacity of emo- tional awareness or emotion recognition.