Somatization Disorder: When The Body Speaks

People suffering from a somatization disorder often have multiple somatic symptoms (fullness) that cause discomfort or can cause significant problems in daily life. However, sometimes they may present only one severe sign and not several of them. In these cases, the most characteristic symptom is a pain.

Symptoms may be specific (e.g., localized pain) or relatively nonspecific (e.g., fatigue). Signs sometimes denote normal bodily sensations or discomfort that usually does not mean a serious illness.

The suffering of the person with somatization disorder is real

Person Suffering

The person suffering from a somatization disorder your discomfort is authentic, whether or not it is explained medically. Thus, the symptoms may or may not be associated with another medical condition. In fact, often, these people have medical conditions along with the somatization disorder.

The Symptoms

For example, a person could be severely disabled by the symptoms of a somatization disorder after uncomplicated myocardial infarction. This is true even if the myocardial infarction itself has not produced any disability. If there is another medical illness or a high risk of suffering from it, with this disease would be excessive in these people.


On the other hand, people with somatization disorder tend to have very high levels of concern for the condition. In this way, they unduly evaluate their bodily symptoms and consider them threatening, harmful or annoying. They often think the worst about their health.

The quality of life is reduced in these people

Health-related quality of life is often affected by both the physical and the mental levels.

In somatization disorder, deterioration is characteristic and, when it is persistent,  disability can result. In these cases, the patient often goes to consultation and even consult different specialists. However, this rarely alleviates their concerns.

These people often seem not to respond to medical interventions, and new interventions can aggravate the presentation of symptoms, entering a vicious circle. Some of these individuals seem unusually sensitive to the side effects of medications. Also, some feel that their medical evaluation and treatment have not been sufficient.

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Anxiety Symptoms and Treatments Explained

There are many stress factors in life that may cause people to experience symptoms of anxiety. At the time that I am writing this article, the economic situation shows an increased level of unemployment, which may produce financial problems and added stress for families. People may get easily frustrated when they have been job searching for a long period of time without many positive results from their consistent efforts. It can be an added burden when an employee loses their benefits along with their job position. They may begin to feel helpless.

In somewhat of an opposite situation, working moms that are really busy can easily become physically and mentally exhausted from trying to juggle their career and family responsibilities. They may also have the added responsibility of caring for their aging parents. It can be a challenge to find enough time to get the proper rest.

You need to realize there are different levels of stress. It is not uncommon for people to feel a little nervous when they are going for a medical appointment, or interviewing for an important job they really want. A traumatic event or major lifestyle changes can cause anxiety. Divorce, death of a loved one, job loss, and health issues are common factors that can make people experience sadness, loneliness, and anxiety.

Symptoms for anxiety may include restlessness, nervousness, irritability, sleep disturbances, and feelings of fear. People with anxiety may also experience dizziness. They may feel like they have shortness of breath or palpitations. Sometimes, the anxiety lessens or goes away when the actual precipitating stress factors improve. For example, someone that is unemployed might feel more calm, relaxed, and reassured after they get a new job and get settled in with the company.

Another example would be the following: if a person is newly diagnosed with a medical condition, such as diabetes, they may get more education from their doctor about how to treat their disease, possibly with diet and properly prescribed medication. Hopefully, this may help to alleviate any unnecessary fears.

Also, if a family has a major relocation to a new city or town, it may take a little time and effort to get adjusted to their new home, neighbors, school, stores and general surroundings.

However, if anxiety remains ongoing and reaches the level where it interferes with a person’s ability to function with their daily responsibilities, it may be considered an anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, people who experience chronic anxiety may have a difficult time performing their work duties or taking care of their routine family responsibilities at home.

The true cause of anxiety is unknown; however, anxiety disorders may be caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Research has shown that genetics and environmental stress are important factors involved with anxiety. It is essential that a person experiencing anxiety symptoms speak to their physician about obtaining a medical exam to rule out any possible medical cause for their current symptoms. For example, pituitary, adrenal, or thyroid conditions may possibly cause anxiety symptoms.

There is some good news. It may be comforting to know there are treatments to help alleviate or lessen anxiety. Actually, there are easy lifestyle changes that may help anxiety. To read more about anxiety and depression you may wish to visit my Psychology Concepts blog which includes information regarding obsessive compulsive disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, agoraphobia, anxiety and more. It also covers topics such as coping with everyday stress, and provides some ideas about how to get good sleep.

In today’s busy society, people have a habit of taking on too many responsibilities everyday without balancing their day with some relaxing time just for themselves. If you don’t have adequate time to take care of yourself, you might not have enough energy to take care of your family on an everyday basis.

I have seen that when people take care of themselves mentally and physically, they may find they are more productive at their job and with their family responsibilities. It is not unusual for people to put others’ needs before their own and they may use too much of their own energy. They may become more prone to the negative effects of stress.

There are positive steps that you can take to better cope with your daily responsibilities. For example, working moms can ask their spouse and children to help with family chores, if appropriate. It is a great habit to schedule a specific amount of time each day just for yourself to relax.

It may be beneficial to treat yourself to a special times during your week for enjoying your hobbies, such as the following: listening to music, watching movies, shopping, dining out with friends and family, and just allowing for enough time everyday for relaxation. Hobbies can be very therapeutic for people experiencing anxiety. Reading, creative writing, yoga, crafting, and gardening are some more relaxing ideas. A real easy way to make your day a little brighter is to take a walk out in the fresh air and sunshine. My favorite way to decrease stress is to spend a little extra time with our family pets. A favorite dog or cat can provide many positive emotional benefits in our lives. Also, support groups can be helpful during stressful times. Friends and family can prove to be great support systems.

As strange as it may sound, I actually feel less stress after I get myself more organized with everything at my home. I find that the more clutter I have accumulated, the more I have a tendency to feel stressed throughout the day. After I clean the house and successfully complete some organizing projects, I feel that I have more control in my life. Often times, I make daily “To Do” lists and cross things off after I complete them. It makes it easier to see my accomplishments. It is rewarding, and it definitely seems to help with time management and productivity.

Living a healthy lifestyle, in general, may be helpful to prevent or lessen anxiety. I have learned that our bodies actually function better when we maintain somewhat of a daily routine. Sleep provides wonderful repair time for the body, and many times we don’t get enough sleep. It may be beneficial to try to routinely go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. To read more about sleep information, you may wish to visit my Healthy Sleep Information blog. It provides helpful ideas about how to get good sleep. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is also important when we are choosing our daily food choices. A nutritious diet includes fruits and vegetables.

Now, there are also some traditional treatments for anxiety which may include the following: psychological counseling, learning relaxation techniques, biofeedback, or prescribed medications. Counselors may help teach cognitive-behavioral therapy to people with anxiety disorders. People who have anxiety symptoms can learn to replace their negative thought pattern with positive thoughts.

Physicians may decide to prescribe anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants for people with anxiety disorders. Often times, people that are depressed may also experience anxiety symptoms. The doctor may develop an individualized outpatient treatment plan, which may include some counseling. For people with severe anxiety, there …

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What Characteristics Do People With Somatization Disorder Have?

The traits that characterize people with somatization disorder are the following:

Cognitive or thinking characteristics

Cognitive characteristics include attention focused on somatic symptoms and the attribution of normal bodily sensations to physical illness (possibly with catastrophic interpretations).

Also, they also include concerns about the disease and the fear that any physical activity could harm the body.

Characteristics of behavior

The relevant behavioral characteristics associated may be the repeated physical verification of abnormalities, the constant search for medical attention and safety, and the avoidance of physical activity. These behavioral characteristics are more pronounced in severe and persistent somatization disorders, as is to be expected.

These characteristics are usually associated with frequent consultations of medical advice for different somatic or bodily symptoms. This can lead to medical meetings in which individuals are so focused on their concerns about somatic symptoms that the conversation cannot be redirected to other issues.

There is often a high degree of utilization of medical care. However, this rarely relieves the individual of their concerns. As a result, the person can receive medical attention from several doctors for the same symptoms.

Frequent visits to the doctor

Any attempt to reassure the doctor and explain that the symptoms are not indicative of a severe physical illness is usually ephemeral. Individuals experience it as if the doctor did not take his signs with due seriousness.

Since focusing on bodily symptoms is a significant feature of the disease, people with somatization disorder often go to general medical health services instead of mental health services.

The suggestion of a referral to a mental health specialist to individuals with a somatization disorder can be experienced with surprise or even with outright rejection.

What is the prevalence of somatization disorder?

The prevalence of somatization disorder is unknown although it is estimated that in the general adult population it can be between 5 and 7%. On the other hand, it is believed to be less than that of the undifferentiated somatoform disorder. Also, women tend to report more somatic symptoms than men, and the prevalence of somatization disorder is probably, as a consequence, higher in women than in men.

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Criteria That Must Be Present To Make The Diagnosis Of Somatization Disorder

The requirements that mental health specialists must take into account in making the diagnosis of somatization disorder are the following:

  1. Item or and physical traits that make the pain or will grow to essential difficulties in everyday life.
  2. Extreme ideas, beliefs or practices compared to physical signs or blended with care for form, as evidenced by one or more of the following characteristics:
  • Disproportionate and persistent thoughts about the severity of the symptoms themselves.
  • Persistently elevated the degree of anxiety about health or symptoms.
  • Excessive time and energy devoted to these symptoms or concern for health.
  1. Although some somatic symptom may not be continuously present, the symptomatic state is persistent (usually more than six months).

How does somatization disorder develop and what is its course?

In older people, somatic symptoms and concurrent medical conditions are common, so it is crucial to make the diagnosis an approach in criterion B.

Somatization disorder may be underdiagnosed in older adults, either because specific somatic symptoms (e.g., pain, fatigue) are considered part of healthy aging or because concern for the disease is considered "understandable" in the elderly. Older people, who generally have more medical illnesses and need more medication than younger people. Depression is also common in older people who have numerous somatic symptoms.

Somatization disorder in children

In children, the most common symptoms are the recurrent abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, and nausea. It is more frequent than a single sign predominates in children than in adults. Although young children may have somatic complaints, it is rare for them to worry about the "disease" per se before adolescence.

The response of parents to the symptoms is essential, as this can determine the level of distress associated. Parents can be decisive in the interpretation of signs, in the time they miss school and in seeking medical help.

As we have seen, somatization disorder is associated with a significant deterioration in health status and with other diseases such as depression or anxiety. In this sense, seeking psychological help is essential to improve the quality of life of these patients.

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