Somatic Symptom Disorder

1 What is Somatic Symptom Disorder?

Somatic symptom disease is a typical situation in which the patient feels certain non-specific symptoms like pain and fatigue.

These symptoms are so severe in some cases that it calls for frequent doctor visits.

Such symptoms may also major emotional distress and depression because people keep thinking about these symptoms and try to reach to a conclusion.

For example, such symptoms like severe pain and weakness are initial symptoms of cancer, therefore patients become emotionally stressed.

These physical symptoms become the focus of life and it sometimes leads to disability.  

2 Symptoms

Symptoms of somatic symptom disorder are as follows:

Specific sensations

General symptoms

Fatigue or weakness, so much that its leads to decrease in functionality. Sometimes these symptoms are related to an underlying medical cause like cancer or heart disease, but more severe than what is expected.

In some cases, the symptoms are not related to any medical cause. There can be a single symptom or multiple symptoms which can range from mild to severe.

Emotional symptoms include

Worrying about underlying illness, considering these symptoms as signs of severe illness, fearing medical seriousness of these physical sensations even when there is no evidence, thinking of these symptoms as threatening and harmful, feeling that medical evaluation of the condition is not adequate or the doctors are not doing enough, fearing that physical activity may be harmful to the body, going repeatedly for checkup, frequent heath care visits that do not relieve the concerns and being unresponsive to treatment.

In this disorder, proper reaction to the symptoms is important because emotional distress makes the condition worse.    

3 Causes

There is no exact cause of somatic symptom disorder.

The following factors are found to play an important role in this disorder:

  • genetic and biological factors,
  • family influence,
  • personal negativity,
  • decreased awareness
  • and learned behavior.

4 Making a Diagnosis

The doctor will start diagnosis of somatic symptom disorder with physical examination. Doctor may also refer to a mental health care provider.

He or she may conduct a psychological evaluation to talk about:

  • symptoms,
  • stressful situations,
  • family history,
  • fears or concerns,
  • relationship problems
  • and issues affecting life.

Psychological self-assessment

 Asking questions about:

  • alcohol,
  • drug or substance abuse.

The criteria for diagnosis according to (DSM-5), published by the American psychiatric association, emphasizes these points in these points in the diagnosis of somatic symptom disorder: one or more somatic symptoms that are distressing or result in problems with daily life.

Presence of excessive and persistent thoughts about the seriousness of the situation, devoting too much time to the health concerns and continue to have these symptoms for more than 6 months. 

5 Prevention

There is very little knowledge about somatic symptom disorder, however these recommendations will help to prevent this disease:

  • people having anxiety or depression must seek professional help as soon as possible,
  • regular practice of stress management and relaxation techniques,
  • early treatment will help reduce the symptoms,
  • stick with treatment plan to help prevent relapses or worsening of symptoms.

6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Some of the following home remedies can be useful in the treatment of somatic symptom disorder:

  • Practice stress management and relaxation techniques: Practicing meditation and progressive muscle relaxation must be done to keep stress under control.
  • Get physically active: Exercise of mild to moderate course must be done or yoga can be practiced to maintain good physical condition of body.
  • Active participation in activities: Participating in regular activities such as physical work or social relations and family activities will keep mild relaxed.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with somatic symptom disorder. These include:

  • Working with healthcare provider: Working with healthcare provider and staying in touch with doctor help doctors to stay updated with the disease and might bring some essential changes in the medications.
  • Substance abuse: Avoiding alcohol consumption and drug abuse will help to treat the situation faster.

8 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with somatic symptom disorder.

Risk factors include:

  • anxiety or depression,
  • having a medical condition,
  • recovering from some disease,
  • being at risk of developing of a medical condition,
  • extreme stress,
  • experiencing trauma or violence,
  • having past experiences of childhood sexual abuse and having lower lever of education and socio-economic status.

This disease may be associated with following situations:

  • Poor health,
  • problems with daily activities,
  • problems with relationships,
  • problems at work,
  • other mental health disorders,
  • such as anxiety,
  • depression and personality disorders,
  • increased risk of suicide,
  • financial problems due to excessive health care visits.
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