Somatization Disorder

Somatization disorder is a type of somatoform disorder. It occurs when a person feels pain and other symptoms that cannot be explained by medical findings. It is diagnosed after many medical tests and exams. The pain, physical symptoms, or emotional symptoms are real. They are not faked or created. Often, people with somatization disorder are worried about their symptoms. Along with a medical caregiver, a mental health caregiver can help to diagnose somatization disorder and teach coping skills. The disorder can last for several years and may be intermittent.

CAUSES

It is unclear what causes somatization disorder. It may be related to:

  • Abnormal nerve impulses.

  • Psychological stress.

  • Family history.

  • Chronic pain.

  • History of sexual or physical abuse.

The disorder usually begins before age 30. It occurs more often in women than men.

SYMPTOMS

There are many symptoms that can accompany somatization disorder. Usually, several mild to moderate symptoms appear. A person with somatization disorder seeks many medical visits to try to determine the cause of symptoms.

DIAGNOSIS

Diagnostic testing will vary depending on the specific symptoms involved. A person with this disorder will often have many medical tests and exams to rule out serious physical health problems. Evaluation may include:

  • Physical exam.

  • Screening health questionnaire.

  • Medical tests, such as blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, or other imaging tests.

TREATMENT

There is no cure for somatization disorder, but the symptoms can be managed and sometimes prevented. Treatment aims at teaching coping skills, reducing stress, and preventing new episodes. Once somatization disorder is diagnosed, treatment may include:

  • Regular monitoring and consultation with a dedicated caregiver for evaluation and coping skills.

  • Regular monitoring and therapy with a mental health provider to increase understanding of triggers and coping skills. Therapies may include:

  • Talk therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy.

  • Antidepressant medicines.

It can be helpful for a primary caregiver and mental health provider to work together to develop a treatment plan.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Follow up with your primary caregiver or mental health provider as directed.

  • Take medicines as directed.

  • Try to reduce stress.

  • Exercise regularly.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • New symptoms appear.

  • Pain or symptoms do not go away or become severe.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

You feel that your life or health are in danger.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.