Somatic Symptom Disorder | diagnosis and treatments

Somatic Symptom Disorder

Somatic Symptom Disorder | diagnosis and treatments

It is a common misconception that Somatic Symptom Disorder is not a real illness. In reality, it is the most prevalent chronic pain disorder in the world according to Dr. Robert S. Andresen who specializes in Somatoform and related disorders at Baylor College of Medicine.

Somatic Symptom Disorder has been a controversial diagnosis since it was first introduced into DSM-IV in 1994 due to its vague definition of “somatic symptoms”. This blog post will cover everything you need to know about Disorder from its diagnosis and treatments!


To be diagnosed with Somatic Symptom Disorder, you must have at least one somatic symptom that has been present for more than six months. This symptom cannot be the result of a known physical or mental illness. You can also suffer from any number of unexplained symptoms which are categorized as “somatic” when they persistently bother and affect your daily life. Somatic symptoms can include physical pain, fatigue, and sexual dysfunction to name a few.

Oftentimes people will be diagnosed with somatization disorder instead of Symptom Disorder if their symptoms have been going on for less than six months or are being caused by an underlying mental illness such as depression or anxiety


The major symptoms include pain, gastrointestinal problems (e.g., diarrhea), sexual symptoms (e.g., vaginal pain during intercourse) and pseudoneurological complaints (e.g., dizziness, fainting).

These symptoms can be difficult to recognize as related to the psychiatric disorder; diagnosticians and patients should be aware that these symptoms can result from a general medical condition.

People who suffer from somatic symptom disorder typically visit a general practitioner rather than a psychiatrist or other mental health expert.

While it typically begins during early adulthood, it is not uncommon for symptoms to begin in childhood.

Somatic Symptom Disorder can be found in people of any age, race or gender.

Somatic Symptom disorder affects approximately one to two percent of the general population and about half of the people in primary care.

Somatic Symptom Disorder is more common than many other mental disorders such as schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

It can be difficult to diagnose  because it shares symptoms with a number of different conditions including conversion disorder, OCD , anorexia, hypochondria and depression.


While there is no known cure for Somatic Symptom Disorder, the symptoms can be treated with medications, therapy, hypnosis and biofeedback techniques.

Patients who suffer from Somatic Symptom Disorder can benefit greatly from therapies that teach coping strategies to reduce stress in their lives.

While research has not found specific treatments for somatization disorder, cognitive behavioural therapy is highly recommended by experts as a treatment option.

Many patients are treated with antidepressants to help relieve their symptoms.

If your doctor diagnoses you with Somatic Symptom Disorder, don’t panic! It is a common and highly treatable disorder that can be managed by therapy or medication.

Related conditions

  1. Illness anxiety disorder: Individuals with illness anxiety disorder are preoccupied or anxious about having a serious medical condition. Similar to somatic symptom disorder, the symptoms of this mental health condition involve physical complaints that cannot be explained by any known medical diagnosis
  2. Hypochondriasis: People who suffer from hypochondria believe they have an undiagnosed ailment despite several medical examinations proving otherwise
  3. Malingering: Malingerers pretend to be sick in order to avoid work or other responsibilities
  4. Conversion disorder: This mental health condition is characterized by a loss of, or change in function that has no known medical explanation. The symptoms are neurological and often involve blindness, paralysis, seizures, numbness and other problems with the senses
  5. Somatization Disorder: Somatization disorder is diagnosed when symptoms of psychological distress are expressed as physical symptoms rather than emotional or mental symptoms.
  6. Psychosomatic Disorders: A psychosomatic disorder involves both a medical condition and how that condition makes you feel emotionally (e.g., developing high blood pressure due to stress).

Somatic Symptom Disorder is a real and prevalent condition that affects millions of people. With so many cases, it can be hard to know what you’re dealing with when someone mentions the disorder.

This blog post will cover its definition, diagnosis process and treatments so you can better understand this chronic pain illness for yourself or your loved ones who might need help managing their symptoms. Contact our doctors today for help!


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