Functions of Somatic Symptoms in Interpersonal Communication: A Cultural-Historical Approach to Psychosomatics



In the context of the cultural-historical approach to psychosomatics, a somatic phenomenon is regarded as the one that is developed within an individual's social situation of development, in particular, the social situa- tion of an illness. The aim of this work is to apply the above-mentioned approach to the analysis of the functions of somatic symptoms in interpersonal communication. It is assumed that in the process of interpersonal com- munication somatic symptoms acquire certain specific functions that, if interiorized, may contribute not only to the presentation and display of bodily sensations, but to their emergence as well. The paper provides a classifi- cation of the social situations depending on their type and content, and the type of the displayed symptom (manipulation, somatization, displaying somatic symptoms of organic origin, reaction to another person's dis- played symptoms, reaction to other people's distrust). Also, the paper suggests that displaying symptoms in interpersonal communications may bear the functions of justification, accusation, benefitting, gaining or assert- ing social status, receiving emotional or instrumental social support, and inquiring into social expectations.

General Information

Keywords: cultural-historical approach to psychosomatics, interpersonal communication, display of somatic symptoms, sociocultural factors, functions of somatic symptoms.

Journal rubric: Theory and Methodology

Article type: scientific article

For citation: Rasskazova E.I., Migunova Y.M. Functions of Somatic Symptoms in Interpersonal Communication: A Cultural-Historical Approach to Psychosomatics. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2014. Vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 79–87. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


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Information About the Authors

Elena I. Rasskazova, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Department of Neuro- and Patopsychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Senior Researcher,Mental Health Research Center, Senior Researcher, International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Yulia M. Migunova, Clinical psychologist, Clinical hospital № 85, Moscow, Russia, e-mail:



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