Somatic Symptom Disorder: Symptoms and Types

Somatic Symptom Disorder refers to a disorder that is characterized by an individual’s extreme and magnified focus on certain physical symptoms like pain or fatigue.

somatic symptom disorder

Somatic Symptom Disorder refers to a disorder that is characterized by an individual’s extreme and magnified focus on certain physical symptoms like pain or fatigue. This causes the said individual extreme emotional distress resulting in further challenges in the day to day functioning.

Somatic Symptom Disorder is not based on the actual sickness or illness of the patient. Rather, this is how the patient reacts to the physical symptoms he/she feels or perceives. People with the disorder may react in such a way that is not normal in terms of the actual physical symptoms they experience.

Even if other major health concerns have been ruled out, the patient may still frequently seek medical attention. In turn, their reaction to their perceived sickness and symptoms may result in impaired daily functioning and even to disability.


Symptoms of Somatic Symptom Disorder

While a number of constant factors may characterize what a patient with Somatic Symptom Disorder may exhibit, there are a number of telltale signs that an individual is afflicted with the disorder. Below are some of these symptoms:

  1. People may experience certain sensations like shortness of breath and even pain. They may also report feeling more general sensations such as patient weakness and fatigue.
  2. People may also report symptoms that are unrelated to the actual medical condition they have. In some people, they may perceive symptoms of cancer when in fact, cancer has already been ruled out.
  3. People may also point out multiple and different symptoms for certain illnesses.

Regardless of the symptoms, people will have excessive thoughts and worries in connection with his/her medical condition. This makes it difficult for people with the disorder to function properly and to possibly experience being disabled for worrying too much.

Some common thoughts usually observed and present in individuals with Somatic Symptom Disorder include:

  • Constant worry that he/she has a potential illness, thinking that normal and regular sensations could be something more severe.
  • Always being afraid that the symptoms could always be serious without any evidence to prove it as such.
  • Always thinking that certain physical sensations are threatening or harmful
  • Feelings that medical attention and assessment may not have been extensive enough or that it could be incomplete
  • Worrying that physical activities can cause adverse effects to the body
  • Cyclical and repeatedly checking for his/her body for any abnormalities or problems,
  • Frequently going to health care professionals without feeling any assurance
  • Being unresponsive to medications and various medical treatment
  • Having more extreme symptoms than the actual symptoms of the illness.

Healthcare professionals and doctors should also focus on the emotional well being of the patient. They should assure him/her that the stress caused by their Somatic Symptom Disorder is manageable.

Physical symptoms should be carefully reviewed by a healthcare professional. Once all symptoms of any physical illness have been ruled out and the patient is still insisting on other possible illnesses, then the doctor can further refer the patient to a mental health professional.


How to Care for Family or Loved Ones with Somatic Symptom Disorder

People suffering from Somatic Symptom Disorder may find it difficult to accept that they do not have any underlying physical illness. They may also feel that they have a disorder that makes them think and worry too much about a possibly non-existent form of disease or illness. However, the problem lies in the possible approach of family and loved ones wherein they may discount the patient’s very real fear of having Somatic Symptom Disorder.

Instead, it may be best to suggest to a loved one afflicted with  Somatic Symptom Disorder to consider going to a mental health professional to learn how he/she can react to the very negative feelings. These are usually anxiousness, stress, and worries caused by the Somatic Symptom Disorder.

Another challenge facing family members and loved ones helping out in people’s care is that the physical aspect which can oftentimes be draining and exhausting.

Caregivers can experience extremely stressful episodes while caring for people with Somatic Symptom Disorder. Experts recommend that the said caregivers who feel overwhelmed may choose to coordinate with a mental health professional. This is done to address their own needs and mental health concerns.


What are Some of the Causes of Somatic Symptom Disorder?

Researchers and experts currently do not have a clear picture of how Somatic Symptom Disorder develops. However, there are some possible causes contributing to the increased risk of individuals for developing the aforementioned disorder. Listed below are some of these causes:

  1. Genetic and biological factors may cause Somatic Symptom Disorder – People with genes that highly sensitive to pain may have an increased risk of developing Somatic Symptom Disorder.
  2. Family influence can play a great role in developing Somatic Symptom Disorder – The patient’s family can greatly determine whether or not he or she will develop the said disorder. This can either be genetic or acquired through the environment
  3. people with a personality trait of being negative tend to have a higher chance of developing the Somatic Symptom Disorder – People with negative personality traits tend to view physical pain and illness in a negative light, worsening their thoughts and feelings towards their own bodies and symptoms.
  4. A decreased awareness of how to address problems or emotions may lead to the development of Somatic Symptom Disorder – people who have a decreased awareness of how to address emotional baggage tend to magnify their pain and physical symptoms resulting in  Somatic Symptom Disorder.

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