Somatization: Symptom – a sign of a physical disease or suffering of the soul?

Somatization: Symptom – a sign of a physical disease or suffering of the soul?

This opinion was given by a family doctor after undergoing training in Vector Systems psychology presented by Yuri Burlan. 

Our body cannot be seen apart from our mental processes, and their interrelated states sometimes show themselves in a quite interesting and unexpected way. 

Somatization ('soma' – in Latin means body) is a process when our unconscious psychological problems (e.g. anxiety, stresses, fears, depression, despondency) transform into physical symptoms.

Somatization symptoms can be varied – tiredness, weakness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, inappropriate urination, feeling lumps in the throat, shortness of breath, different sorts of pains, etc.

How to distinguish somatization from a physical disease? How to understand if the symptoms in each case follow a serious disease or are the result of transformations of psychological stress into physical discomfort, illness or changes in bodily sensations? 

In the case of somatization, patient’s complaints about different pains and uncomfortable sensations do not give a clear picture of a concrete disease, and, as a rule, are inconsistent. Besides, a diagnosis of a physical disease often reveals that all the related indications conform to the norm. 


This results in quite a difficult situation when a doctor has to inform a patient that no real disease has been found. The patient becomes puzzled, “I am not making this up, I really feel bad! There must be a reason! You just couldn’t find it!” And being disappointed he goes from one doctor to another. He may visit quite a few specialists in the pursuit of a correct diagnosis of his disease, but the results are always the same. The patient becomes convinced of the doctors’ complete ignorance and their inability to help him. 

As a rule when some doctors try to explain that the reason for these physical sensations can lie in our psyche, the patient denies it. The person is not aware of their psychological discomfort, they try to avoid additional pain and are afraid of losing the moral compensations that they get from a real “disease”. Many patients do not want to take responsibility for what is happening to them, or to change themselves or their lives. This kind of behavior is a psychological defense mechanism.

The main treatment method is psychotherapy, it aims at finding the connections between emotional conflicts and somatic symptoms which are hidden from the patient. 

There are a lot of psycho-therapeutic techniques which can bring the person temporary relief, but none of them gets to the real root of their emotional problems. The fact is that the root lies hidden deep in their unconsciousness. 

Remaining unrecognized, these mechanisms continue their influence and only when the person becomes aware of them can he or she get a real chance to change their condition, and as a result, finally get rid of the physical symptoms resulting from psychic discomfort. 


A real-life example

The reception of a patient complaining about chest pain, dizziness, nausea and weakness. She has lifeless eyes and a despondent appearance. I interview her. She tells me that these symptoms, in different variations, appear immediately after awakening. 

Morning is the most difficult part of the day for her. She describes how she feels after awakening, and I understand that every forthcoming day falls like a heavy burden on her just because she has nothing to fill it with. This thought drains all her strength, she needs a huge amount of energy just to make herself get up and start a new day because the only thing that she really wants to do is pull up her blanket and go back to sleep for the rest of her life.

- Why was life given to me? – she asks with despair. 


- Doesn’t anything bring you joy? What do you like doing?
- I like doing needlework, cooking, reading… But why? Everything seems so SENSELESS! Will it make any difference if I do it or not? It makes no difference at all! If I read a book, I realize that it’s a mere consolation.
- And SENSE is what is really necessary? 
- Yes, it is! – She confirms, brightening up… - Life seems so void …that thoughts of suicide come over me unwittingly sometimes. 

The unrealized audial vector shows itself in this woman. Without finding proper fulfillment in her everyday life it becomes stressed, and does not allow other vectors to fulfill their desires. Feeling that everything she does is absolutely useless, she lays aside her knitting and books. Her anal vector falls into a stupor, unable to do anything. 

- It was easier when my children lived with me, but now… I feel lonely, there’s nobody to cook or clean for… and it is much worse in autumn and winter … the days are so short, and the nights are so long, sometimes fear overwhelms me and I lose self-control, I can’t help it… I feel so helpless… Doctor, I need some sedatives.

Her unfulfilled and stressed visual vector realizes itself in her fears and anxiety.

I listen to her and realize that the reason for her bodily sensations, her unexplained aches, nausea, weakness and dizziness stem from a desperate feeling of senselessness of her own existence. She can’t express herself: all her desires, which could inspire her to action, all her actions which if taken could bring her a happiness of realization break down and come crashing into one singular, inescapable thought: Why? What is the meaning of everything ? Does anything at all have meaning? These are the signs of depression the audial vector.

She started experiencing these conditions at the age of 30, by now she has been on antidepressant medication and sedatives for 20 years. With no self-confidence or the ability to make herself happy, she's given up hope in finding the answers to her questions. She looks to her psychiatrist, but he also can’t give her any answers, just a temporary relief.

I ask her, “Do you want to understand yourself and what is happening to you? To know where all these thoughts come from and why, and how to deal with them? How to change your conditions and find joy in your life again? Her eyes brighten and a lively sparkle of interest reflects itself in her appearance. “Of course, I do!” – she says.


Nothing happens by chance – not a single thought or a feeling. All our reactions are in accordance with some objective laws that can be predicted. And it is possible to learn, to recognize and understand all our issues and consequently control them to a certain extent, which is enough to change our lives for the better. 

We are able to learn to understand our desires and know how to fulfill them. To be able to trace the roots of our fears and get rid of them forever – by bringing them into our conscience mind and channeling our inherent abilities in the right direction.

We can have different symptoms treated or wait for doctors and psychologists to give us some relief, but if we want to be the masters of our own lives, to live life to the fullest, we need to take responsibility for perceiving the essence of our being. Training in Vector Systems psychology presented by Yuri Burlan gives us the opportunity to do exactly that. 


Another real-life example

A case of a 45-year-old woman. She came seeking medical help with complaints about a sense of choking and feeling a lump in her throat. She was examined, but no abnormalities in her physical condition were found, nevertheless the feeling of discomfort and breathing trouble progressed, and trouble swallowing also developed. Medical supervision revealed excessive fidgeting and veiled emotional blackmail. She was obviously trying to attract attention. Generally being depressed, reserved and detached, she would brighten up when talking about her feelings, expecting sympathy and understanding. 

More detailed examinations in hospital didn’t make the situation any clearer. It was obvious that the symptoms were caused not by physical problems, but by her psychological condition. She received further treatment in a psychiatric clinic, where solitary, trustworthy communication with the doctor in combination with sedatives and antidepressant medication had a beneficial effect on her. In a month, the choking sensation subsided. 

Unfortunately, this result was not permanent! It was just a temporary relief. The patient returned home to her daily routines and soon the physical symptoms reappeared. This time she developed a kind of a problem with food intake. She was dramatically losing weight and getting weaker. Her caring husband took it upon himself to do all the household chores as well as looking after her. She was taken to the city hospital a the worst verdict – cancer was expected, but all her test results turned out to be fine, and here she was – in the psychiatric clinic again. The situation repeated itself. 


Her life afterwards was a string of recurrent periods of disease with a sequence of different symptoms: urination problems, headaches, sleep disturbances, lumps in her throat, etc.

The psychiatric clinic became her second home.

Looking at this case from the perspective of vector systems psychology helps to understand what exactly was happening to the woman.

This woman is a dermal, visual and audial type. Her unrealized and stressed audial vector made her feel unsettled in her everyday life, leading to despondency, sleep disturbances and frequent headaches. In the state of depression she could not adequately fulfill the desires of other vectors (in this case all routine things seem to be useless, life was empty and every step she took was unnecessary). As a result they (the other vectors) were manifested in a pronouncedly unhealthy way.

The stressed dermal vector could be seen in her fidgeting, in a need for strict control and restriction (and this is absolutely in accordance with vector systems psychology: her constant, negative, self-issue related demands led her anal husband to an infarct). 

The underdeveloped visual vector could be fulfilled only by attracting attention, anxiety and subconscious fears. Her disease was just an escape from reality. On the one hand, the quietness of the ward and solitude temporarily compensated her audial needs. On the other hand, her visual vector was fulfilled by taking a delight in the doctors’ and family's attention. 

As a doctor I observe that most people revealing somatization symptoms are those of dermal or anal plus visual types. The presence of the audial vector in bad conditions provides symptoms resulting in depression and a lack of interest in life. The patient complains about feeling sluggish, apathetic, fatigued, headaches, drowsiness or an inability to sleep. 

Dermal people are concerned about their health and easily adapt to pain. In the case of not having an adequate realization they may learn to take pleasure from pain, it becomes a kind of vector fulfillment (dermal is the only vector that has masochistic tendencies). Besides this, the dermal body and psyche are flexible and easily transfer the conditions derived from fear from the visual vector to the body. 

The visual vector in a state of fear is always afraid of losing their life and easily affected by what is going on around them. The dermal vector (being naturally flexible and adaptive) can easily transform visual emotions and anxiety into symptoms. People of the visual type can literally convince themselves that they have a serious illness. And they can also have an actually recover from a medical condition after taking a placebo.

The stress and unrealization of the anal vector, namely its feeling of resentment and difficulty with adaptation can also be manifested by physical symptoms (usually with stomachaches and digestive disorders). I think that in this case the anal vector symptoms can result from psychosomatic diseases with are less often the case for dermal-visual people. 

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The article is based on Yuri Burlan's System-Vector Psychology training
Article was read by 17 people.
Posted on: June 2, 2013
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