Pronounced: so-mah-ti-za-shon dis-order
Individuals with somatization disorder report suffering constantly and often for many years from many physical illnesses. However, they do not have any specific, diagnosed medical illnesses that can explain their symptoms. Still, these symptoms cause distress and negatively impact their ability to function day-to-day.
If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor for further evaluation.
The cause of somatization disorder is not known.
There is no medical illness to explain the symptoms, so the disorder is believed to be due to mental and emotional causes. Somatiform disorder may also be due to brain processing.
Often, symptoms seem to begin or get worse during stressful circumstances or in relation to emotional suffering, such as the loss of a friend. It is as if these stressful life situations are experienced physically.
Researchers believe these components also may play a role in the disorder:
The physical suffering that people with somatization disorder experience usually begins in the late 20s. It can also begin during the teenage years. Individuals suffer for years, often leading to many unnecessary medical tests and treatments.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Factors that increase your chance of developing somatization disorder include:
People with somatization disorder complain about many physical illnesses that involve many different parts of their body. A diagnosis of somatization disorder requires experiencing an assortment of symptoms (at least three) for a considerable amount of time (causing suffering for at least two years).
The symptoms include:
Individuals with somatization disorder may:
It is important to understand that a person with somatization disorder is not intentionally producing or pretending to experience these physical complaints.
If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to somatization disorder. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.
There are no specific tests to determine whether or not a person has somatization disorder.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and mental health history. A physical exam will be done. It is important for your doctor to rule out other diagnoses that are sometimes misdiagnosed as somatization disorder, including multiple sclerosis, lupus, and other endocrine (hormonal) conditions.
If your doctor does not find anything serious in these tests, your doctor may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
The goal of treatment is to make you feel like you can control the symptoms and help you begin to function properly in work and social situations. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. It is important to have a long-term relationship with your doctor, who should be empathetic and caring about your issues.
Other treatment options your doctor may suggest include:
There are no known ways to prevent somatization disorder. To help reduce your chances of developing somatization disorder, take the following steps:
American Psychiatric Association
American Psychological Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Mental Health Canada
Eisendrath SJ. Somatization disorder. In: Ferri F. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment . 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby; 2006.
LaFrance WC, Jr. Somatoform disorders. Sem Neurol. 2009;29:234-46.
Servan-Schreiber D, Kolb NR, Tabas G. Somatizing patients: part I. Practical diagnosis. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000215/1073.html . Published February 15, 2000. Accessed October 12, 2012.
Somatization disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated September 1, 2012. Accessed October 12, 2012.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Lukas Rimas, MD
Last Updated: 3/27/2013