166 Introduction to Somatoform Disorders

Somatoform disorders encompass many mental health disorders. People with these disorders believe that they are sick so they are not “faking” the illness. There is no general medical condition present rather psychological problems are being translated into physical complaints. The people that have this disorder have many symptoms that last for a long time due to the specific cause not being found.

Somatization, the physical expression of emotional distress, is a process and not a disorder unless it interferes with comfort, work and quality of life to the degree that it leads to consultation with physicians, use of medication, and adoption of the sick role (Lipsitt, & Starcevic, 2006).

These disorders cause stress on all of the patient’s relationships as the patient is the only one who is able to “see/feel” the afflicting illness. Diagnosis is difficult because the doctors must be completely sure that a real illness is indeed affecting the patient. Those who suffer from these disorders will often never see just one doctor. This distrust may leak into other relationships as well.

Somatization gained widespread currency when it was introduced as a psychiatric diagnostic term by the authors of the DSM-III in 1980 (Mai, 2004).

It has been proposed that this group of disorders will be renamed Somatic Symptoms Disorder in the DSM-V. These disorders share a common feature in that they all involve both somatic symptoms and psychological concerns for medical condition. Thus, a more appropriate label is proposed.

Quick Facts

  • 1 in every 500 adults report having a Somatoform Disorder.
  • Roughly 544,00 people in the United States.
  • Comorbidty with Substance use/abuse, anxiety disorder, and mood disorders.
  • May also be known as also known as Briquet’s syndrome

USMLE – Somatoform Disorder Video


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