Functional Somatic Symptoms


We work to help you enjoy holistic health.


Our area of special interest is helping people cope with health and medical issues, health anxiety, and somatic symptoms. We are experienced in supporting people with Functional Neurological Disorder, Functional Gut Disorder and Functional Voice Disorder. Where appropriate we work as a team with other health professionals including general practitioners, neurologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, gastroenterologists, dieticians and other specialists to provide the highest level of health care for our clients and ensure they enjoy holistic health.


The most commonly reported functional somatic symptoms are musculoskeletal pain, persistent headache, chronic tiredness, chest pain, heart palpitations and gastric symptoms. People with these symptoms find psychological support useful to help identify and learn to manage emotional stressors. People who have been diagnosed with chronic health conditions may also find this ‘whole-person’ approach useful. For others, anxiety about their current health or potential health issues create a lot of stress that could be addressed by consulting a psychologist.


Some people with physical symptoms have seen many health professionals and alternative therapists in a search for diagnosis or treatment before being referred to a psychologist. Psychological support can be very helpful amidst the this time of uncertainty and doubt.


The terminology used to describe this type of physical symptoms can be confusing for health professionals and patients. Patients are sometimes referred to as having somatic disorders, conversion disorders or medically unexplained symptoms. The term ‘functional somatic symptoms’ is the most helpful in current use and describes patients with a disturbance of physiological functioning or stress regulation that cannot be easily identified with typical medical tests. Some people feel that doctors are telling them that their symptom is ‘all in your head’. This can be very frustrating and discourage people from seeking help. This is unfortunate as delays in treatment can lead to worse outcomes. Recent research suggests that psychological interventions can be effective in reducing the effect of functional symptoms. It makes sense then that it can be helpful to seek support from a psychologist when experiencing these types of physical symptoms.


Current research has demonstrated physiological mechanisms within the central nervous system (CNS) which may produce functional somatic symptoms. Psychosocial factors can contribute to these changes. This does not mean that people’s functional somatic symptoms are caused by psychological distress, however people with such symptoms do often experience high levels of emotional distress and co-morbid mental health problems.


If you think that your physical symptoms are having a negative effect on your mental health, or that your emotional stressors are making your physical symptoms worse consult your GP to determine whether a referral to a psychologist may benefit you.