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Anxiety is a very common, and often debilitating, mental health condition. It can take many forms and affect people differently. One type of anxiety experienced by many is called somatic anxiety. It’s a specific type of anxiety characterized by physical symptoms, as opposed to feeling overwhelmed or worried as with ‘normal’ anxiety.
What is Somatic Anxiety?
Somatic anxiety, also known as somatic symptom disorder, is an anxiety disorder where a person experiences physical pain or discomfort. It is often related to a past traumatic event or a specific worry but the physical symptoms are real and can be hard to cope with. Common symptoms of somatic anxiety include chest pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, headaches, fatigue, and insomnia. The physical symptoms of somatic anxiety can be so severe that people almost feel as if they are having a heart attack.
How to Spot the Signs of Somatic Anxiety
It can be tricky to spot the signs of somatic anxiety as the symptoms are similar to many other physical illnesses. However, if the physical symptoms persist and don’t seem to be related to any kind of physical malady, then it may well be a sign that the person is suffering from somatic anxiety. It’s important to remember that it’s not just the physical symptoms that somatic anxiety causes. It can also affect a person’s thoughts and feelings, often making them feel overwhelmed, scared, or insecure.
Finding the Right Anxiety Therapy
If you or someone you care about is displaying signs of somatic anxiety, it’s important to seek help. Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can be highly effective in treating anxiety. CBT helps to identify and challenge any irrational beliefs that may be causing the anxiety, and works on replacing them with healthy and positive thoughts. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques are also useful in helping people to cope with anxiety.
Overcoming Somatic Anxiety Through Self Care
It’s important to remember that while professional help should be sought, there are also many things that people can do to cope with somatic anxiety themselves. Exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet can be helpful in regulating mood, and taking time out to relax and enjoy hobbies can also be beneficial. Learning to recognize when anxiety is beginning to flare up, and having an action plan for if it does, can help to prevent it from spiraling out of control.
Helping Loved Ones Through Somatic Anxiety
It can be tough to watch someone you care about struggle with somatic anxiety. It’s important to be supportive and understanding, and to encourage them to seek professional help if they need it. Providing practical assistance, such as helping with day to day tasks, can be invaluable in reducing the burden on the person suffering from somatic anxiety. It’s also important to make sure that they have a safe space to talk to you, and not to be too judgmental or dismissive if they are struggling.
Somatic anxiety can be a very distressing condition, but with the right help and support, it can be managed. Identifying the signs of somatic anxiety, seeking out professional help, and taking steps to look after yourself and your loved ones can all be beneficial in overcoming this type of anxiety.
- Roth, A.D., & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends. W.W. Norton & Company.
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- McKay, M., & Fanning, P. (2017). Self-Esteem. New Harbinger Publications.
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