Cognitive Therapies For Somatic Symptom Disorder Focus on Improving Patients’ Perception of Their Symptoms
Cognitive therapies for somatic symptom disorder aim to alter patients’ perception of their symptoms. This can be accomplished through behavioral experiments in which the patient is shown that his or her pain could be attributed to something other than the physical disease they believe caused it. Furthermore, positive suggestion and guided imagery have been known to be effective in relieving somatic symptoms.
Somatic symptom disorders affect 4.6% of the population and are more common among women than men (APA, 2022). Common symptoms include pain, headaches, fatigue, dizziness or muscle tension. In addition to physical complaints such as these, somatic symptom disorder may also involve anxiety about one’s own body or potential injuries.
Studies have reported that somatic symptom disorder can be effectively treated through psychological and pharmacological methods. Examples include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants. These treatments help reduce somatic symptoms, enhance quality of life and decrease health care costs.
In the therapeutic process, it’s essential that psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists consider both mental and somatic symptoms together when making a diagnosis or selecting treatment options. Doing this can raise patient awareness about their illness and improve chances that they receive appropriate therapy from an experienced therapist.
Particularly with somatoform disorders that are coupled with mental problems or depressive states of mind, patients’ somatic and psychological manifestations often become inseparable [3,5,6,9].
Psychotic disorders and severe depressive states of mind often manifest physical problems and add to the patients’ subjective suffering. If these are present, patients can feel overwhelmed by their physical problems as well as feelings of guilt about having experienced such pain before.
Doctors may mislead patients into believing they have a physical disorder when, in reality, these symptoms could be due to something other than stress or an underlying medical issue. Once misled, many sufferers begin seeking out medical assistance for what appear to be minor inconveniences.
People experiencing this kind of somatic symptom disorder should seek professional help as soon as possible. Doing so can help alleviate their distress over the symptom and any disruptions to daily living it causes.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for somatic symptom disorder has been demonstrated to be successful in decreasing physical symptoms and improving self-reported functioning. A study also revealed that using CBT was linked with improved health outcomes and lower health care costs among those suffering from somatic symptom disorder.
Somatic symptom disorder is not uncommon and can be difficult to diagnose, making it especially challenging for elderly individuals. A recent study discovered that cognitive-behavioral therapy was successful at relieving somatic symptoms and improving self-reported functioning among elderly patients with somatic symptom disorder. The research included both older individuals with the disorder as well as an age matched control group of adults.