Somatoform disorders are a group of conditions causing health related symptoms or sensations for which no physical reason can be found as its source. And because nothing physical can be identified, its classified as psychological. Although, that doesn’t mean complaints associated with somatoform disorders are fake, they are treated as very real.
The most common complaint caused by somatoform disorders is chronic pain. The cause of this symptom, as well as others, is unknown. But it may have something to do with nerve signalling and your brain.
Somatoform disorders are broken down into different types, i.e. somatization disorder, hypochondriasis and conversion disorder.
Somatization disorder, aka somatoform pain disorder, is a health condition marked by chronic pain. It usually involves chronic pain arising from digestive, nervous or reproductive systems. For instance, somatoform pain disorder is common in conjunction with irritable bowel syndrome.
Some of the specific complaints that occur with somatization disorder, which may or may not pertain to chronic pain, are:
- back pain
- chest pain
- leg, arm pain
- abdominal pain
- vision problems
- irregular periods
- loss of sex drive
- nausea, vomiting
- muscle weakness
- painful intercourse
- swallowing difficulty
- headache, dizziness
- constipation, diarrhea
- extremely painful menstruation
Because many of these symptoms can be an indicator for another health disorder, somatoform pain disorder diagnosis should only be made after a thorough medical examination.
Hypochondriasis is the belief that any physical symptom is automatically caused by some serious health condition. This somatoform disorder is marked by persistent fear and a preoccupation with physical health. And despite medical reassurance to the contrary or misinterpretation, minor symptoms such as a headache causes an unrealistic fear that it’s brain cancer. Or an upset stomach can only mean stomach cancer. And so on.
Conversion disorder is the manifestation of physical symptoms similar to a neurological disorder when none is present. The name comes from the idea that some sort of psychological distress, i.e. stress or conflict, is converted into a physical symptom. So some typical symptoms of conversion disorder include:
- hearing loss
- urine retention
- seizures, convulsions
- poor coordination, balance
- blindness, other vision issues
- speaking, swallowing difficulty
There is no known cure for somatoform disorders, yet these treatments can be helpful: