What is Somatoform Disorder?

Somatoform disorders are a bunch of psychological problems during which an individual experiences physical signs which they are unable to explain and these physical signs are caused by underlying medical condition.

It often happens that you get too concerned about pains or other physical symptoms occurring in your body. You increase your stress level and your feelings and behavior may change. You go on searching for answers to this physical signs even after the doctor confirms you that the major illnesses that could have caused such a symptom have not touched you. This excessive thinking may affect your daily life and you will find difficulty in functioning normally. Your focus on your life may be lost and you may develop an emotional or psychological disability.

When you are affected by somatoform disorder, you will have both emotional and physical changes and suffering. With proper treatments, your mind and the symptoms of somatoform disorder can be eased down. Slowly you can then return back to your daily life.

What is Somatoform Disorder?

Causes of Somatoform Disorder

The prominent causes of somatoform disorder are not yet found but probable causes of it are:

  • Increased level of sensitivity to pain which may be genetic or biological in nature.
  • Somatoform disorder can also be caused due to influence of family which can be environmental or genetic.
  • Developing a trait of negativity where you seem to perceive symptoms of illnesses can cause somatoform disorder.
  • Failing to process emotions and being overtly aware of it which leads to physical symptoms appearing in you and you lose focus.
  • Gaining notice or attention from pain may develop learned behavior in you. Such causes high level of disability within you.

Symptoms of Somatoform Disorder

Symptoms of somatoform disorder may be:

  • The most common symptom of somatoform disorder is pain. To all your symptoms, you will have thoughts, feelings and excessive behavior changes. This change causes serious functional disability.
  • The most specific and noticed symptoms of somatoform disorder other than pain are shortness of breath or breathlessness, fatigue, weakness.
  • The symptoms of somatoform disorder can be a specific one or more than one occurring at the same time. The symptoms can also be in the mild, moderate or severe form.
  • The symptom occurring can be unrelated to any medical issue (as suspected) or can be related to a health crisis. But usually the symptoms appear to be stronger and significant than what the symptoms appear to be.

Excessive thoughts, feelings and behaviors of somatoform disorder can include:

  • Worrying at a high level about being potentially ill.
  • Physical sensations which are normal are considered to be symptoms of some serious illness.
  • Over-worrying about mild symptoms and trying to relate it some severe illness.
  • Imaging sensations in the body and appraising them to be harmful and therefore causing problems and dysfunctions.
  • Doubting the evaluation of the treatment and tests done due to the symptoms showing in you.
  • Developing a fear that any physical movement or exercise may affect you seriously.
  • Going for constant check-ups to look up for abnormalities growing in you can be a sign and symptoms of somatoform disorder.
  • Going for visits to the doctors or therapies to get proper health care but nothing seems to relieve you of your pain or problems or seems to further deteriorate in you can also be a symptom of somatoform disorder.
  • You shall find that your body is not responding to treatments or you are developing more sensitization towards the side effects of your medical treatment.
  • Facing serious impairment in your body which is usually found or noticed during some serious ailment, such medical crisis which has not occurred in your body.
  • When it comes to somatoform disorder, the physical symptoms are lesser in concern than what you interpret your reaction to the symptoms are. Your reactions shall have an impact on your life more than the physical symptoms.

Diagnosis of Somatoform Disorder

You have to undergo several physical tests as suggested by the doctors for diagnosing somatoform disorder. Then the medical heath provider shall proceed with your treatment. You also have to undergo psychological tests where you have to talk about your conditions and anxiety. You have to also update the doctor about your family history. Your psychological evaluation depending on the questionnaire you answer shall determine if you are having a somatoform disorder. Any kind of substance abuse shall also be tested for.

Such diagnosis shall only be done if you show one of more symptoms of somatoform disorder. Also if you are persistent about the symptoms that have developed and your level of agitation grows within you and if the symptoms remain in you for more than 6 months.

Treatment for Somatoform Disorder

You shall be undergoing treatment to get rid of the symptoms and start living a normal life. For somatoform disorder, psychotherapy or cognitive behavior therapy can be as useful as any medication.

Psychotherapy for Treating Somatoform Disorder

Often it is seen that physical symptoms are close in relation to psychological stress or anxiety. For treating such conditions, psychotherapy also known as talk therapy can be of help for treating somatoform disorder. The ways this cognitive behavioral therapy helps you with somatoform disorder are:

  • Your beliefs about your physical symptoms are to be examined and you shall adapt them.
  • You shall be taught to handle stress and physical symptoms linked to somatoform disorder.
  • How to control and lower preoccupation.
  • You shall then learn not to avoid situations that might trigger such symptoms and cause you hindrance.
  • This will lead to improving your activities in your daily life.
  • You shall be open and try to get help about depression.
  • You can also choose to have family therapy where will family will support you and your relationships and personal life will grow stronger.

Medications for Somatoform Disorder

If you are undergoing depression, then anti-depressant is prescribed to you. Sometimes you may find that a certain group of medicine is not suiting to you. In that case ask your doctor to change your medication. You must always keep in mind that to recover from somatoform disorder the mediations shows improvement after a certain period of consuming them. Also consult your doctor and get medication that shall develop least or no side effect in you.

Home Remedies for Somatoform Disorder

Somatoform disorder can be best treated with medical help but you can always try to adopt some homely remedies to take care of yourself:

  • You must build a relationship of trust and understanding with the doctor or the mental health provider. Working with your doctor shall help you open up to him or her about your difficulties. You can also set limits to the tests and evaluations. It is suggested that you do not keep changing doctors after short intervals since that will only degrade your condition and increase your problems. This way you can also avoid going through the same tests again and again. Always keep a schedule and maintain it regularly while going for check-ups to your mental health provider.
  • It is important for people suffering from somatoform disorder to take suggestions from professionals and practice various ways of releasing stress and relaxing your body and mind. With continuous relaxation techniques, your mind and your muscles shall be relaxed and your symptoms shall improve.
  • Somatoform disorder patients must try and get involved in some work that shall keep you active physically. Also take part in activities involving family and friends, at social functions and at work places.
  • Avoid and try to quit any kind of addiction like alcohol and other kinds of drugs. Consult help if needed to quit such habits.

Prevention of Somatoform Disorder

Not much is known about the methods of prevention of somatoform disorder. The usual methods of prevention that can be recommended are:

  • If the problem you are facing is psychological like you are undergoing a depression or getting an anxiety attack then seek help from medical personnel immediately.
  • You must understand how stressed you are and how to deal with the stress. You may further practice various stress management and relaxation exercises to relieve yourself.
  • If you identify that you have been a victim of somatoform disorder then find professional medical help as soon as possible to keep the symptoms in check.
  • As soon as you enter into a treatment procedure to get rid of somatoform disorder you must continue it without breaking the routine to bring down the symptoms.

Risk Factors for Somatoform Disorder

The risk factors for somatoform disorder are:

  • Developing anxiety, depression.
  • Undergoing a medical crisis or recovering from a health issue.
  • Having a family history of a disease and being at a risk of developing such a disease is a risk factor for developing somatoform disorder.
  • If you gave undergone some stressful incidents, trauma or if you have faced violence.
  • Being abused as a child or experiencing mental dilemma after a trauma or a shock can also be a risk factor for somatoform disorder.
  • Coming from a low socio-economic status or lacking proper education.

Complications of Somatoform Disorder

The complications of somatoform disorder are:

  • Bad health
  • Having difficulty in functioning properly in daily life.
  • Having issues and crisis at work place.
  • Undergoing mental crisis leading you to become suicidal in nature.
  • Monetary crisis.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 15, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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