Somatic Symptom Disorder

All You Need to Know About Somatic Symptom Disorder

Somatic symptom disorder formerly known as somatization disorder is characterized by physical sensations and bodily pain caused by mental illness. These symptoms cause a significant amount of distress and may or may not be linked to a medical condition, mental disorder, or other substance abuse condition.

Overview of SSD

This type of disorder occurs in about 5 to 7 percent of the adult population. Women are ten times more likely to report than men. This is explained by the fact that the disorder is often related to childhood abuse and trauma to which women are more often exposed than, men. Somatic symptom disorder can appear in any age group.

Patients with somatic symptom disorder have symptoms that come and go for many years. The good news is that with treatment, most patients can experience an improvement in their symptoms.

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Somatic Symptom Disorder

Symptoms of Somatic Symptom Disorder

Pain is the most frequent symptom experienced in somatoform disorders and is usually accompanied by pervasive thoughts, emotions, and actions related to the pain. These beliefs, feelings, and behaviors can be debilitating and disruptive to normal functioning. Thoughts, emotions, and behaviors associated with somatoform disorders may consist of the following:

Persistent worry about possible sickness
Interpretation of normal bodily sensations as an indication of severe physical sickness
Fear that symptoms are dire or life-threatening in the absence of facts or medical confirmation
Mistrust of medical assessments and treatment
Excessive visits to a physician or hospital that never alleviate concerns
More significant impairment than what is commonly expected from a medical circumstance

Causes of Somatic Symptom Disorder

Researchers believe there are many factors including biological susceptibility (it’s more common in women), exposure to emotional stress in childhood, and psychological factors such as learned ways of thinking in the context of a person’s social environment. The main factors include:

Childhood physical and sexual abuse.
Poor awareness of emotions/emotional development during childhood. This can be the result of such things as parental neglect or lack of emotional closeness.
Excessive anxiety and attention to bodily processes and possible signs of illness; low pain threshold.

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Risk factors of SSD

Studies have found certain risk factors associated with SSD. These risk factors include a history of

Substance abuse
Alcohol abuse
Neglect during childhood
Presence of other psychiatric disorders, especially anxiety or depression
Chaotic lifestyle/trauma
Chronic illness during childhood
Physical and sexual abuse
A heightened attention to bodily sensations

Complications of SSD

It can be associated with:

Problems at work or unemployment
Increased suicide risk related to depression
Problems with relationships
Financial problems due to excessive health care visits
Poor health
Problems functioning in daily life, including physical disability
Other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and personality disorders

Prevention of SSD

Little is known about how to prevent somatic symptom disorder. However, these recommendations may help.

If you have problems with anxiety or depression, seek professional help as soon as possible.
Learn to recognize when you’re stressed and how this affects your body — and regularly practice stress management and relaxation techniques.
If you think you have somatic symptom disorder, get treatment early to help stop symptoms from getting worse and impairing your quality of life.
Stick with your treatment plan to help prevent relapses or worsening of symptoms.

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Diagnosis of Somatic Symptom Disorder

To be diagnosed with SSD, a patient Must have one or more symptoms that cause distress or disrupt daily life. And the person must have excessive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors in response to the symptoms that meet at least one of the following criteria:

Overly excessive and long-lasting thoughts about the seriousness of the symptoms
Continuously high levels of anxiety about health or symptoms
Extreme amount of time and energy focused on symptoms and health concerns
One or more symptoms must be persistent (typically present for more than 6 months)

Treatment somatic symptom disorder:

The goal of treating somatic symptom disorder is to manage symptoms using both behavioral therapy and sometimes medications that treat the underlying anxiety and depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps patients learn ways to change their patterns of thinking or behavior in order to change the way they feel. CBT helps the patients to better cope with anxiety and stress and respond to situations more effectively. If medication is prescribed, antidepressants are a common choice. Antidepressants in addition to helping mood, have been reported to help ease such symptoms as pain, fatigue, pain in joints, and sleep problems.