The Connection of Emotions with Somatic Symptoms

Wanted to share this study that looked at the relationship between our emotions and somatic symptom disorder (SSD). A lot of what I treat are people who present with SSD- meaning there is nothing physically wrong in the body, but they are still having a lot of physical symptoms in the body. These symptoms come from the brain and autonomic nervous system and are related to stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, PTSD, adverse childhood events, etc. All these things are all related to emotions and how we deal with our emotions. What this review study of over 29,000 people found was:

“We found evidence for deficits in the identification process of ER (emotion regulation), especially reduced emotional clarity and ER self-efficacy, in patients with SSD. SSD were also significantly associated with a deviant pattern of habitual strategies (selection process) including a more frequent use of expressive suppression and a less frequent use of cognitive reappaisal.”

The authors state there needs to be more studies done about this relationship but the 3 big things they identified in the study are 3 of the things I work on with people to help them get more in touch with emotions to recover from SSD. These 3 emotional regulation strategies are:

1) Identifying/ Acknowledging what one is feeling emotionally (usually it’s coming out in the symptoms themselves).

2) Reducing emotional suppression tendencies (expressive suppression)- learning to express emotions more easily.

3) Learning to cognitively re-appraise, re-interpret situations, experiences, people, etc to reduce emotional distress.