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Somatic Symptom Disorder

(SSD; Somatization Disorder; SD; Briquet Syndrome)

How to Say It: so-mah-ti-za-shon dis-order

Definition

Somatic symptom disorder (SSD) is severe worry over physical symptoms that are not linked to any medical cause. SSD may also happen in people who do have a health problem and react to it with excessive symptoms that are explained by any medical cause.

SSD may last a short time or it may come and go over time. It may also be a lifelong problem.

Causes

The exact cause is not known. It may be linked to how the brain works. It is thought to be caused by mental or emotional problems.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Genetic factors
  • Neglect or sexual abuse
  • Prior chronic illnesses
  • Poor coping skills
  • Having other mental health problems, such as panic disorder

Symptoms

SSD tends to start in the early adult years. People with SSD suffer with these problems for years. SSD often leads to testing and treatment that is not needed. This may include surgery and medicines.

The main symptom is an excess worry about one's health. This may cause a person to go to the doctor a lot.

Problems are different from person to person. General ones are:

  • Pain (common)
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness

Nervous System
Nervous system posterior 3D

An emotional event may trigger physical symptoms, sometimes through the peripheral nerves (yellow).

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. A mental health exam may also be done.

There are no specific tests to find out if a person has SSD. The diagnosis is based on the information gathered by a person's doctor.

Treatment

The goal is to help a person control what they feel. It will also help you with your work and social life. Your doctor will help you find the best way to do this. Find a doctor who cares about your issues and will help you.

Choices are:

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

American Psychiatric Association
https://www.psychiatry.org

National Institute of Mental Health
https://www.nimh.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Mental Health Association
https://cmha.ca

Canadian Psychiatric Association
https://www.cpa-apc.org

REFERENCES:

Croicu C, Chwastiak L, et al. Approach to the patient with multiple somatic symptoms. Med Clin North Am. 2014 Sep;98(5):1079-1095.

Kurlansik SL. Maffei MS. Somatic symptom disorder. Am Fam Physician. 2016;93(1):49-54.

Somatic symptom disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/somatic-symptom-disorder. Accessed November 20, 2020.

Somatic symptom disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/somatic-symptom-and-related-disorders/somatic-symptom-disorder. Accessed November 20, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 4/16/2021