Somatic symptom disorder is a form of mental illness that manifests as physical symptoms that suggest disease or injury. However, it can’t be explained fully by a general medical condition. Somatic symptom disorder means having a significant focus on physical symptoms including weakness, pain or shortness of breath. This mental disorder can lead to major emotional distress and problems functioning.
The person has excessive thoughts and feelings connected with his or her condition, but the symptoms and signs may not be traceable to a physical cause. Regardless, they result in high and misappropriate levels of distress. An individual with somatic symptom disorder usually thinks the worst about his or her symptoms and continues to search for an explanation. Health concerns can ruin the normal routine and even lead to disability.
If you have somatic symptom disorder, you may experience physical and emotional suffering. Certain forms of treatment can help relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life.
Symptoms of somatic symptom disorder may vary widely and can be:
- specific sensations, such as pain or trouble breathing or more general symptoms such as tiredness or weakness;
- unrelated to any medical problem that can be identified or related to a medical cause but more significant that is normally expected;
- mild, moderate or severe.
Pain is the most frequent symptom, but no matter what the symptoms are, they can lead to excessive feelings and behaviors that can make it hard to function.
Excessive thoughts and feelings may include:
- high level of anxiety about potential disease or condition;
- considering common physical sensations as a symptom of the severe medical problem;
- feeling that medical evaluation has not been adequate;
- obsessive checking your body for abnormalities;
- very frequent health care visits that don’t ease your concerns;
- being unresponsive to medical treatment.
It is important to remember that people with somatic symptom disorder are not faking their symptoms. The distress is real, and it can negatively affect daily function. Your health care provider needs to perform many various tests to find other possible causes before diagnosing somatic symptom disorder. If your doctor thinks that you have this condition, he or she may refer to a mental health professional for further evaluation and treatment. Certain medications and psychotherapy can ease the symptoms and improve daily life.
Doctors don’t know exactly how to prevent somatic symptom disorder. However, these tips may help:
- If you experience problems with anxiety or depression, visit your doctor to get professional help as soon as possible.
- Regularly practice relaxation techniques to avoid the worst effects of stress.
- If you suggest you have somatic symptom disorder, see your doctor early to help stop your symptoms from getting worse.
Follow your treatment plan to prevent relapses of symptoms.