Somatization and Coronavirus: Believing You Have Symptoms Without Being Infected

April 19, 2020
A person with somatization disorder can experience coughing and difficulty breathing without actually being infected. Today, we'll take a closer look at somatization and coronavirus.

Somatization is a truly interesting psychological phenomenon. It consists of manifesting physical symptoms without actually having any illness. Normally, it’s the consequence of one’s own fear and anxiety regarding a particular pathology. With that in mind, we want to take this opportunity to talk about somatization and coronavirus.

Today, almost every country is going through turbulent times, and most have declared a state of emergency. The coronavirus pandemic has already produced a great number of infections, but it continues to spread across the planet.

Coronaviruses are, in reality, a family of viruses. The new coronavirus behind this pandemic first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in 2019. This virus consists of a new strain, which scientists are studying tirelessly in order to understand all of its characteristics.

Just the same, while it’s true that there are many legitimate cases of infection, there are also many individuals who are simply experiencing somatization. We’ll explain what this means in this  article.

What does somatization mean?

Somatization is a disorder that consists of involuntarily transforming a psychological problem into a physical symptom. In other words, a person experiences physical symptoms of a given illness without actually suffering from any pathology that explains the symptoms.

In the past, the mind and the body were believed to be two separate entities. However, today we know very well that an intimate connection exists between the two. What’s more, we know that the two can greatly affect one another.

Most of the time, somatization occurs because a person is experiencing a great deal of worry or anxiety. It’s this same fear that causes the appearance of symptoms, even though the individual isn’t actually sick.

Often, people confuse this disorder with hypochondria, as the two seem to be very similar. The difference is that people that are hypochondriac are afraid of getting sick from anything. They don’t need there to be a real external factor in order to experience symptoms.

As for somatization, there’s usually a particular situation that’s feeding the fear. For example, the current COVID-19 global pandemic. The constant bombardment of information and the state of emergency are the triggering factors when it comes to somatization and coronavirus. 

A woman feeling overwhelmed regarding coronavirus.

You may also want to read: The Coronavirus and Asthma: Recommendations

The main characteristic of somatization

According to experts, in order to determine if somatization is occurring, it’s important to focus on various aspects. First of all, we need to rule out the existence of an actual illness. Furthermore, we need to take into account a person’s overall condition.

People that somatize an illness are usually nervous and anxiousMost claim to think a lot about a given illness and are afraid of becoming sick. They usually have a great deal of information on the subject.

Usually, people with somatization disorder will manifest more than one symptom of the given illness. In fact, these symptoms and worry itself interfere with the lives of those who suffer. And this, logically, causes their anxiety levels to increase even more.

Discover more: Coronavirus Treatments Currently in Use

Somatization and coronavirus: How does it occur?

The new coronavirus produces a series of symptoms that are non-specific and easy to confuse with other illnessesMost people with COVID-19 infection experience high fever, difficulty breathing, and a cough.

Experts have also documented many cases where infected individuals lose their senses of taste and smell. In the same way, since this is a viral infection, it’s normal to experience overall fatigue and muscular pain.

An elderly woman experiencing fatigue.

What happens with somatization and coronavirus is that a number of people are starting to manifest symptoms without actually being infected. They begin to experience coughing, headache, and may even feel like their body temperature is rising.

However, for example, if these individuals take their temperature, it will most likely not be above normal. As for the rest of the symptoms, which are impossible to measure objectively, it’s harder to prove they’re not the result of infection.

We need to keep in mind that somatization disorders are very frequent in times of crisis. Therefore, if you’re experiencing any symptoms, it’s important you contact your doctor… but also remember that what you’re feeling may also simply be the result of anxiety.

  • Ketterer, M. W., & Buckholtz, C. D. (1989). Somatization disorder. Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. https://doi.org/10.3928/0048-5713-19880601-04
  • Löwe, B., Spitzer, R. L., Williams, J. B. W., Mussell, M., Schellberg, D., & Kroenke, K. (2008). Depression, anxiety and somatization in primary care: syndrome overlap and functional impairment. General Hospital Psychiatry, 30(3), 191–199. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2008.01.001
  • Somatización del coronavirus: ¡Tengo todos los síntomas! (n.d.). Retrieved April 9, 2020, from https://lamenteesmaravillosa.com/somatizacion-del-coronavirus-tengo-todos-los-sintomas/
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