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Somatization Disorder

Written by: Editorial Staff.

Somatization Disorder refers a psychiatric diagnosis of patients who complain of varied physical symptoms that have no identifiable physical origin. The patient must begin having symptoms before the age of thirty and may have experienced symptoms for several years. A common general explanation for this is that internal psychological conflicts are expressed as physical symptoms. The symptoms the patients ail from are perceived as real and do cause them to suffer as if there were a medical reason for them. Patients who suffer from somatization disorder often visit many doctors to find an effective treatment for their symptoms. Some patients may even believe they have some rare or lethal disease.

Somatization disorder and accompanying traits overlap frequently to avoid consideration by the psychological and psychiatric communities. Some people develop multiple personality disorder; dissociate disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, amnesia, or other ailments as a result of trauma. Similarly, somatization disorder is a coping mechanism generated by the human brain in response to traumatic situations. Somatization treatment usually includes some form of psychotherapy. It also involves educating the patient on their disorder and causes. Prescribed anti-depressants and cognitive behavioral therapy have been shown to help treat the disorder.

Patients diagnosed with this disorder must be found to have five criteria to be diagnosed. They must have a history of symptoms before the age of thirty, suffer from pain in at least four different parts of the body, have two gastrointestinal problems other than pain, such as vomiting or diarrhea, have one sexual symptom such as lack of interest in sex or erectile dysfunction and one pseudoneurological symptom such as fainting or blindness. These symptoms cannot fully be explained by a medical condition or substance. The symptoms do not have to all occur at the same time and may occur over the course of the disorder.

The theories of how patients develop the disorder focus on the concept of a misconnection between body and mind. One theory is that the symptoms represent the body’s own defense against psychological stress, stating the mind has a certain capacity to cope with the stress therefore when this limit is reached the stress manifests into the prevailing symptoms. Another suggests that some people have heightened sensitivity to internal physical sensations; people who have this hypersensitivity can feel the slightest discomfort in their body that a normal person’s brain would not register, such as changes in heartbeat. A third even suggests that it is cause by one’s negative thoughts and overemphasized fears, they overthink on their symptoms to such an excess that it may possibly increase the effects of the symptom. Somatization disorder is not common in the general population occurring in an estimated 0.05% of people, more often occurring in women.

Those who suffer from the disorder are also at risk to other complications. Some may develop an addiction to pain medication in an effort to relieve their pain symptoms. Others may isolate afraid of doing things they normally do in fear or worsening their condition, leading to social and occupational problems. Research has shown that emotional well-being affects the way people perceive pain and other symptoms, and still continue to find out more about the connections between the brain and body.

Other Resources in: Somatoform Disorders

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    Other Resources in: Somatoform Disorders