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The Part of Katy Perry's Therapy Session I Disagree With as Someone With Chronic Pain

I recently had the chance to view the live-streamed therapy session with Katy Perry. While I am not here to judge Ms. Perry in any way, I do feel there is something about the broadcast that needs to be addressed.

As someone who lives with a chronic pain condition, I really didn’t like something that the therapist, Dr. Siri Sat Nam Singh said. He spoke of how when people are inauthentic, they tend to somaticize their problems. This means that “symptoms will come in your body.” He went on to say that he has worked with many individuals with, as he said, “quote incurable diseases” who go to doctors only to be told there’s nothing wrong with them. The therapist then said being inauthentic puts you at risk for consequently somaticizing your problems and “creating symptoms in your body.” Based on my experience, I strongly disagree.

Jump to 38:30 to watch the clip:

Just because a doctor is unable to find something wrong upon examination, or even after doing multiple diagnostic tests, this does not mean that there isn’t something wrong. It also does not mean that the pain is purely psychologically based. There are many people out there who are struggling with very real physical conditions, and I believe having a professional do a live therapy session with a well-known celebrity, probably to be seen by millions, and say this does not help our case. In my opinion, it only adds to our struggle. Saying that we are somaticizing our symptoms and labeling us as hypochondriacs can actually make things worse for us and reinforce the assumption that we are making it all up, or simply looking for attention.

I have personally been struggling, as have many more, to get an official diagnosis for my condition, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndome, or hEDS. This is supposedly a rare condition, but as I like to say, “it’s not rare; it’s rarely diagnosed.” The reason for this is that there are very few people out there, including doctors, who have knowledge of hEDS, largely due to lack of awareness. Some doctors suggest doing things such as meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), taking antidepressants, etc., to help us manage our physical pain. While I am not saying this may not in fact help some, it doesn’t help everyone, and it doesn’t get to the root of the physical problem. Not everything that we feel physically is a manifestation of some inner psychological turmoil. This is why we are not taken seriously.

I, myself, have tried talk therapy, CBT, antidepressants that are supposed to be geared towards pain management, as well as meditation. I have yet to find something that works for me. And why is this? Because, contrary to the often popular medical opinions of doctors and physiotherapists, it’s not all “in my head.” It is a very real, debilitating, day-in-day-out physical condition with many co-morbidities that limits me in countless ways. The bottom line here is that in order to receive proper treatment, patients need to be taken seriously by their physicians and health care team.

Many doctors are unaware of the different syndromes out there that can cause chronic, widespread pain. Unfortunately there are also many more who are just unwilling to learn about them, or sometimes even to send us to another doctor that may know. They are essentially dismissing our problems and chalking it up to somatization. Until this stops happening, and doctors start listening to their patients and taking their complaints seriously, countless people will continue to suffer, and continue to feel invalidated and unheard. This, in turn, will no doubt lead to psychological distress. Maybe, in that way, the therapist had it backwards.

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