Somati-What? Treating the Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 @ 12:51 PM

“Somatic anxiety" is the name for the physical, as opposed to mental or emotional manifestations of anxiety. Anxiety can be marked by somatic or cognitive symptoms, or both types of symptoms may be present. Examples of somatic symptoms include:

  • Stomachache
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing/Hyperventilation
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Nausea

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and the reality is that in some cases the anxiety can cause symptoms that are incredibly unusual, such as nerve symptoms, trouble swallowing, feelings of lumps, unusual pains, and more. Anxiety can have such an intense effect on the body, sometimes the symptoms themselves become issues that create further anxiety.

Treating anxiety based on whether the symptoms experienced are primarily somatic or cognitive has been shown to have beneficial effects. Treating somatic anxiety symptoms can be difficult, and often involves a comprehensive strategy that focuses on what it's like to live with anxiety symptoms. But even small changes can make a big difference in your somatic symptoms. Some examples of ways to treat somatic anxiety are:

  • Getting a massage
  • Gentle exercise (like yoga)
  • Eating regularly
  • Deep breathing
  • Relaxing bath or shower
  • Healthy sleeping habits

While treating somatic symptoms would only be the first step in reducing anxiety, its an important one, because if you can decrease your physical symptoms even a small amount you may find that your overall anxiety levels become easier to control.

Hopetree Counseling Center