Somatoform diseases are mental illnesses that cause physical symptoms, most commonly pain. Patients are diagnosed with a somatoform disorder when their symptoms are severe enough to interfere with everyday functioning, are not proven to have a medical cause, and are not the consequence of another mental condition or drug misuse.
A patient must undergo a complete medical examination, including any required blood or imaging tests, to rule out physical sickness before being diagnosed with a somatoform condition. After then, the patient should be assessed by a somatoform disorder specialist, such as a psychiatrist or another mental health expert. Somatoform diseases are thought to be caused by a combination of genetic, stress, parental, and cultural factors, while the exact reasons remain unclear.
Types of Somatoform Disorders
Somatoform diseases are classified based on a number of factors, including age, duration, and particular symptoms. Under stress, the symptoms of somatoform diseases frequently intensify.
Somatization condition, also known as Briquet’s syndrome, is diagnosed in people who have had years of chronic medical difficulties that began before the age of 30. Chronic pain and physical problems affecting several bodily systems plague these people. Two or more gastrointestinal symptoms, one or more neurological symptoms, and one or more reproductive or sexual symptoms are all present in patients with somatization disorder. Frequently, these people have an anxiety condition as well.
Undifferentiated Somatoform Disorder
This is a more generalised kind of somatization disease. One or more unexplained physical symptoms for at least 6 months are required for diagnosis.
Patients with hypochondriasis, also known as hypochondria, believe they have a terrible illness and castrate even little symptoms as signs of major illness. They’re obsessed with their symptoms and apprehensions about their health.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
Body dysmorphic disorder patients obsess on a perceived physical fault. Their reaction to the problem might be greatly exaggerated, or the flaw could be completely undetectable to others. Whatever the case may be, it is continually worrying the patient and interfering with his or her ability to rest, work, or interact with others. Any portion of the body might be the focus of a patient with body dysmorphic disorder. Hair or baldness, wrinkles or sagging skin, or the size or form of facial features, breasts, or genitalia are all common obsessions.
Conversion disorders are characterised by troubling, frequently debilitating neurological symptoms for which there is no medical explanation. Conversion illnesses were known as hysterical symptoms during Freud’s time. The following are some of the signs and symptoms of conversion disorder:
- Sensitivity loss
Psychological trauma is the most common cause of pain condition. After a very stressful incident, patients frequently get a blinding headache or excruciating back pain, which develops a chronic illness.
Not Otherwise Specified Somatoform Disorder
This illness, like other “not otherwise specified” disorders, is a catch-all for those who have psychogenic physical problems but don’t fit the criteria for other somatoform disorders. Pseudocyesis, or fake pregnancy, is one of the variations covered in this group. Many or all of the following symptoms are seen in patients with this disorder: Breast and abdominal enlargement, nausea and vomiting, cessation of menstruation, foetal activity, and labour pains are all symptoms of pregnancy.
Antidepressants and pain drugs have found to be more beneficial in somatoform disorder patients. Supportive psychotherapy, particularly group treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy, and the teaching of distraction strategies, is also beneficial. Alternative therapies may also be beneficial. The following are some of them:
- The use of hot or cold packs
- Massage therapy
- Physical therapy.
- Stress-reduction activities include meditation.
Patients typically have difficulties linking their physical symptoms to psychological reasons, making treatment of somatoform diseases problematic. Patients with somatoform diseases have a far better prognosis if therapy is started early.
Dr. Rameez Shaikh (MBBS, MD, MIPS) is a consultant Psychiatrist & Psychotherapist in Nagpur and works at Mind & Mood Clinic. He believes that faith-based treatment, encompassing spiritual, physical, and mental health, will provide you with the long-lasting knowledge and tool to find happiness and wholeness again. In his spare time, he’s an aspiring singer and writer.