Somatic Symptom Disorder

What Is Somatic Symptom Disorder?

Somatic symptom disorder is diagnosed when a person has a significant focus on physical symptoms, such as pain, weakness or shortness of breath, to a level that results in major distress and/or problems functioning. The individual has excessive thoughts, feelings and behaviors relating to the physical symptoms. The physical symptoms may or may not be associated with a diagnosed medical condition, but the person is experiencing symptoms and believes they are sick (that is, not faking the illness).

A person is not diagnosed with somatic symptom disorder solely because a medical cause can’t be identified for a physical symptom. The emphasis is on the extent to which the thoughts, feelings and behaviours related to the illness are excessive or out of proportion.

Individuals with somatic symptom disorder may experience difficulty accepting that their concerns about their symptoms are excessive. They may continue to be fearful and worried even when they are shown evidence that they do not have a serious condition. Some people have only pain as their dominant symptom.

Virtual Reality for Somatic & Related

Somatic environments are tools to help the evaluation and manage the physical, affective, cognitive, and behavioural aspects of feeling ill.

VR Environments that help

Anxiety about getting sick

The individual finds themselves in their living room, watching a show about diseases.

Attentional focus

This virtual environment allows the individual to practice mindfulness and acceptance exercises as they walk through a peaceful meadow.

Body scanning

This environment is unique in that it engages with Jacobson’s relaxation and induction techniques as the individual takes a mental journey of their body. It is especially useful for progressive muscle relaxation.

Emotional regulation

This environment engages with two interconnected scenarios. As the environment transitions from spring to summer, the individual can practice full-attention exercises.

Mindfulness for children

For young individuals between the ages of 6 to 12 years old, this environment is geared towards attention, joy, energy and relaxation. With several guided activities, this environment transitions from winter to autumn to summer to spring.

VR Therapy involves gradually introducing a person to the situation causing their fear and helping them adapt to it. It may involve just a few sessions of therapy, after which the end goal is the person confronting their fear.

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