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James D July 27th, 2004 07:58 PM

Differentiating between somatic and psychological
Hi all,
My clients all have chronic health conditions and some experience panic attacks. Thing is, how does one differentiate between a panic attack and something like an asthma attack or chest pain related to cardiac problems? People with respiratory disorders appear to be more likely to have an anxiety disorder such as panic disorder, according to research. Hence this is not uncommon in my work.
I'm interested in the approaches used by other practitioners re differentiating between physiological problems (such as an asthma attack or cardiac problem) and problems that are more psychogenic.

Henry Stein August 2nd, 2004 01:45 PM

Re: Differentiating between somatic and psychological
Alfred Adler's ideas about "organ inferiority" and "the psychology of use" would offer one perspective. Read "The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler," edited by Heinz and Rowena Ansbacher or visit

HealthyGirl October 11th, 2005 05:22 PM

Re: Differentiating between somatic and psychological
A good medical work-up should help you with this. For example, if a person's peak flow meter is registering in the range of asthma attack, then it probably isn't anxiety. However sometimes anxiety has mimic physical symptoms. It's best to find out the parameters of the symptoms, for example, do they occur more often in the context of stress or not. Also, finding out more about what the patient is thinking at the time of the symptoms and what the symptoms mean to them (are they afraid of dying?) can be quite helpful in distinguishing. I'd be happy to talk more about it as I have 12 years experience in health psychology and run into these patients on a daily basis.

onimagus June 1st, 2006 08:16 AM

Re: Differentiating between somatic and psychological
Chest pain problems are very bad, better not experience kills. The pain can be felt on the stomach and it stings deep inside. Whereas as for respiratory probs, like asthma, I guess that's kinda obvious that it shows on the person's face..the person has probs wid breathing etc.

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