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Somatic Symptom Disorders

Updated: Dec 2, 2021


Somatic disorders is a category of mental illness that have to do with physical symptoms. Many people have not heard of these disorders. However, they are very real and can be treated.

Types of Somatic Symptom Disorders:

Somatic Symptom Disorder: is when someone has an unnecessary high focus on physical symptoms. They may have extreme anxiety about the symptom, causing distress in function.

Illness Anxiety Disorder: Also called hypochondriasis, is when someone has anxiety about a possible serious illness. They worry that something normal is caused by illness. People may have no symptoms but still, worry. They may go to a lot of doctors, are extremely avoidant of doctors, and/or excessively talk about or research their health.

Conversion Disorder: Also called FND, it can cause paralysis, blindness, seizures, loss of speech, tic, tremors, etc. People with FND experience physical symptoms without a known medical cause. People with FND are more likely to be female than male. They are also more likely to have another condition.

Psychological Factors Affecting Somatic Symptoms: a mental health condition affects another medical condition, for example having a depressive episode causing worsening of the symptoms of a chronic illness.

Factitious and Factitious By Proxy: A Factitious disorder is when someone claims they are sick or injured. It is very serious, and people can go as far as changing test results, or lying about their medical history. They don’t necessarily realize they have a mental illness. Symptoms of the factitious disorder include excessive amounts of medical knowledge, staying in hospital a lot, and inconsistent or unexplainable symptoms. Factitious by proxy, previously called Munchausen by proxy is the same thing except that someone else, usually a parent, says their child is sick.

Brief Somatic Symptom Disorder: Somatic symptom disorder with symptoms for less than 6 months

Brief Illness Anxiety Disorder: Illness anxiety disorder with symptoms for less than 6 months

Illness Anxiety Disorder Without Health-Related Behaviours: When one meets all symptoms/criteria for illness anxiety disorder but does not have health compulsions such as checking the body for illness, etc.

Pseudocyesis: a false belief of being pregnant. While not pregnant, may have signs of pregnancy. Increased risk if they have trauma, sexual abuse, pregnancy loss before, or depression.

Treatment for Somatic Disorders:

Therapy: CBT mainly used to reduce stress and other factors contributing to symptoms. Physical or Occupational therapy may be used in patients with a functional neurological disorder who experience paralysis.

Medications Used:

Doctors can prescribe Antidepressants or other medications if depression or another mental illness is a contributing factor.

Some people also find that practicing techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and other breathing techniques can help with their symptoms.

Getting Help:

If you or someone you know is struggling with a somatic disorder, or any other mental health condition, it is important to reach out and get help. As hard as it may be, there is a lot of benefit in talking to a trusted adult, a parent, teacher, other family member, or even a friend, about what you are experiencing. They can help you find resources and support, and support you in recovering.


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