Psychosomatic Disorders and Health Psychology
Successfully manage your physical symptoms.
Our team helps you quickly recognize somatic cues to effectively manage your physical and/or physiological symptoms through a wide-range of therapeutic techniques.
What are Psychosomatic Disorders?
The term “soma” refers to the body. Thus, psychosomatic disorders are physical, body-based symptoms that correlate to unresolved psychological processes. As a result, psychosomatic disorders are a broad umbrella term to describe physical/physiological conditions that have a psychological aspect to them. In the sections below, we describe some examples of psychosomatic disorders. We also explain our approach to psychosomatic treatment utilizing integrative therapy (mind body therapy) inspired by the principles of health psychology.
Panic: A bodily expression of the mind’s anxiety.
Often psychosomatic disorders are a bodily-manifestation of anxiety and/or stress. Take for example panic attacks. The symptoms – heart racing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing, sweating and/or blushing, and vasovagal responses such as fainting – are experienced as physical and very tangible or real. People may or may not have awareness of the emotional or psychological experiences that accompany these physical symptoms. Additionally, the aftermath of a panic attack can lead to subsequent anticipatory anxiety and additional avoidant behavior patterns which only serve to create and entrench a vicious cycle.
Integrative therapy with our psychologists features easy-to-learn techniques that help people understand how to quickly recognize somatic cues (early in the process) and cope smoothly and effectively with somatic symptoms of panic. Coping leads to positive somatic mastery, which in turn leads to decreased anxiety and panic. Essentially, we help our clients reverse the cycle. These successes can also open the door to deeper psychotherapeutic work that addresses unresolved psychological issues.
The Gut, Headaches, and Sleep? Enhancing the relationship between mind and body through integrative therapy.
Psychosomatic symptoms often occur in ways that surprise people. Some people predominantly express their mental processes – thoughts and feelings – through their bodies. Each person is unique in having certain parts of the body or modes of bodily expression that are the leading edge of mind-body interaction. Take the following three examples:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). People who suffer from IBS have very real and unpleasant symptoms – diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea. These symptoms can have significant impact on a person’s ability to live his or her life the way he or she wants. And yet, IBS has no known medical cause. We have a high success rate treating IBS through the standardized, empirically supported hypnosis protocol created at the University of North Carolina.
Headaches. While headaches vary in cause and type, many are psychologically influenced and responsive to creative experiential approaches such as clinical hypnosis.
Insomnia. Like headaches, there are certainly types of sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea) that have clear, discernible medical causes and treatments. Insomnia, however, is one of the most common sleep disturbances and is related to stress and psychological processes. We integrate clinical hypnosis and cognitive approaches to sleep hygiene to treat insomnia effectively.
Health Psychology: Treating the psychological dimension of health and illness
Our therapists also have an interest in health psychology, and working with clients in varying dimensions of health between wellness and illness. One interest is in working psychologically with patients to successfully manage the expression of inflammation in various inflammatory diseases. We also enjoy providing psychoeducation and attuning to difficult emotions in treating family members of patients with significant illnesses.
Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with one of our therapists to learn more about how we can personalize an integrative therapy treatment to your particular health presentation.