Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A note of caution about the word "somatic"


I've noticed for some time that various people have been using the term 'somatic' as if it signified a 'psychosomatic' or 'psychogenic' condition.

This is incorrect. The OED definition of 'somatic' is "of or relating to the body, **especially as distinct from the mind**" (my italics) The word comes from the Greek 'soma' meaning 'body'.

Even when proponents of 'psychogenic' explanations (it's in your mind, you're imagining it, misinterpreting it, faking it, caused it by your own beliefs etc. etc. etc.) use the term 'somatic illness' they actually do mean an illness of the body. They may then claim this somatic (or bodily illness) is caused by psychological dysfunction, but the word 'somatic' does not mean "illness caused by psychological dysfunction". It merely means illness of a body, or a bodily illness.

It is important that this word is used correctly, especially when people write to the media, government, the medical establishment etc. Otherwise we are in danger of seeing apparent objections published, from advocates, to saying ME/CFS is a bodily illness, purely because someone has used the word 'somatic' incorrectly!

Best wishes
Angela Kennedy


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