What is Somatization?

Have you ever experienced an upset stomach, a tight chest, clammy hands, or any other physical reaction when you’re stressed or depressed? The mind and body have an incredibly strong connection, and when you’re feeling an overwhelming amount of emotion, your brain can process it as being in danger even if the situation isn’t life-threatening, and initiates the fight-flight-freeze response.

brain-2029391_1280This is called somatization, or the way your body reacts to what it thinks is danger, even though nothing seems to be physically wrong with you. The video below, produced by the Kelty Mental Health Resource Center in British Columbia, Canada, explains this in more detail. Reading about the science behind it can be a little overwhelming, including how the nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (it can feel a little bit like biology class), but the 7 minute video breaks it down, with cute animations and animals to keep you entertained.

The video shows different situations where people can experience somatization: pressure from an upcoming test or game and the feeling of rejection from people you care about. While these aren’t places where things are necessarily life-threatening, they can have an intense effect on you, especially if these are things that cause you stress or are particularly emotional about. This intensity is what makes your brain see this situations as dangerous to you, and that’s how your body reacts.

Learn more below!


Do you experience physical reactions when you’re feeling upset or depressed? What kinds are they? What do you do to help them, if anything?

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Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: https://sova.pitt.edu/i-need-help-now We look forward to talking to you!

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