What is Somatic Symptom Disorder

Are you suffering from Somatic Symptom Disorder? So you just need to know What is Somatic Symptom Disorder.  Somatic Symptom Disorder also known as Somatization is a mental health disorder characterized by physical symptoms that cannot be explained by any known medical condition.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what somatic symptom disorder is, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, coping strategies, related disorders, complications, prevention, and more.

Let’s dive in and gain a deeper understanding of this condition.

What is Somatic Symptom Disorder?

Somatic symptom disorder is a condition characterized by distressing physical or psychological symptoms that may or may not have a clear medical explanation. Individuals with this disorder often experience intense anxiety or concern about their symptoms, which can significantly impact their daily lives. 

It is important to note that somatic symptom disorder is not the same as hypochondriasis, which is now known as illness anxiety disorder. In hypochondriasis, individuals have persistent fears or beliefs that they have a serious medical condition, despite medical reassurance and lack of evidence. Somatic symptom disorder, on the other hand, focuses more on the distressing physical symptoms themselves rather than the fear of having a serious illness.


The development of somatic symptom disorder can be influenced by various factors, including biological, psychological, and social factors. It may stem from a combination of genetic predisposition, personality traits, and environmental stressors.

Biological Factors:

Research suggests that individuals with somatic symptom disorder may have abnormalities in brain structure and function, particularly in areas associated with pain perception and emotion regulation. They may also have a genetic predisposition to developing the disorder.

Psychological Factors:

People with somatic symptom disorder often have underlying psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, or trauma. These conditions can contribute to the development and maintenance of somatic symptoms. Additionally, individuals with a history of abuse or neglect may be more susceptible to developing this disorder.

Social Factors:

External stressors such as work-related stress, family problems, or financial difficulties can also contribute to the development of somatic symptom disorder. These stressful life events can trigger or worsen physical symptoms in vulnerable individuals.


Individuals with somatic symptom disorder may experience a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms can vary in severity and type, but they often cause significant distress and impairment in functioning.

Physical Symptoms:

Physical symptoms commonly associated with somatic symptom disorder include

  • Pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • General weakness
  • Fatigue

These symptoms can be chronic and persistent, leading individuals to seek frequent medical care.

Psychological Symptoms:

The distress and preoccupation with physical symptoms in somatic symptom disorder often lead to psychological symptoms such as

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Individuals may also experience difficulty coping with stress and tend to catastrophize their symptoms.


Diagnosing somatic symptom disorder involves a careful evaluation of symptoms and ruling out any underlying medical conditions. A healthcare professional will conduct a thorough assessment, including physical examinations, medical history reviews, and possibly laboratory tests. They may also use diagnostic tools, such as the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria, to determine a diagnosis.

Treatment Options

An individualized approach is essential when considering treatment options for somatic symptom disorder. Treatment may involve a combination of therapies, including psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications. It is essential to work closely with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment plan.


Therapy is a crucial component of treating somatic symptom disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their symptoms.

Other forms of therapy, such as psychodynamic therapy or mindfulness-based approaches, may also be beneficial in addressing underlying psychological issues.


Medication may be prescribed to manage symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other related conditions. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may help alleviate physical symptoms and improve overall well-being.

Lifestyle Modifications:

Making lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and stress management techniques can also help manage symptoms of somatic symptom disorder.

These changes can improve overall physical and mental health, leading to a better quality of life.

What is the Best Treatment for Somatic Symptom Disorder?

The best treatment for somatic symptom disorder varies for each individual. It is crucial to find a treatment approach that addresses the specific needs and challenges of the person. Working with a healthcare professional to explore different therapies and interventions can help identify the most effective treatment plan.

Additionally, it is essential to address any underlying psychological issues and manage stress effectively to improve overall well-being. With proper treatment and support, individuals can learn to cope with their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.

How is CBT Used to Treat Somatic Symptom Disorder?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a commonly used approach to treat somatic symptom disorder. CBT helps individuals recognize and change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors associated with their symptoms.

It can provide strategies to manage distress, improve coping skills, and enhance overall well-being. CBT also helps individuals develop a more realistic understanding of their symptoms and reduce the fear and anxiety associated with them.

Coping Strategies

In addition to professional treatment, there are several coping strategies that individuals with somatic symptom disorder can incorporate into their daily lives.  These strategies can help manage symptoms and improve overall well-being.

  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Keep a symptom diary to track patterns and identify triggers for somatic symptoms.
  • Engage in enjoyable activities and hobbies that promote a sense of calm and pleasure.
  • Seek support from loved ones or join a support group for individuals with somatic symptom disorder.
  • Educate yourself about the disorder and how to manage symptoms effectively.

Related Disorders

Somatic symptom disorder can be related to other conditions such as illness anxiety disorder, conversion disorder, and factitious disorder. Understanding the relationships between these disorders can provide further insight into the complexity of somatic symptom disorders.

Individuals with somatic symptom disorder may also be at a higher risk of developing other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety disorders. Seeking help early on can prevent these conditions from worsening and improve overall well-being.


Somatic symptom disorder can significantly impact an individual’s life, leading to several complications such as:

  • Frequent medical visits and tests may be unnecessary and costly.
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships due to constant preoccupation with physical symptoms.
  • Challenges in managing work or daily responsibilities due to the severity of symptoms.

It is crucial to seek treatment early on to prevent these potential complications and improve overall quality of life.


There is no known way to prevent somatic symptom disorder, but early intervention and proper management of symptoms can help improve outcomes. It is important to address any underlying psychological issues and develop healthy coping mechanisms to reduce the severity of symptoms.

Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity, balanced diet, and stress management techniques, can also contribute to overall well-being and potentially prevent the onset of somatic symptom disorder.

Who does Somatic Symptom Disorder Affect?

Somatic symptom disorder can affect individuals of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. It is more commonly seen in females and often starts in adolescence or early adulthood. It is essential to remember that anyone can experience somatic symptom disorder and seek appropriate help and support.

How Common is Somatic Symptom Disorder?

The prevalence of somatic symptom disorder varies, but it is estimated to affect a significant portion of the population. Research suggests that approximately 5-7% of the general population may experience somatic symptom disorder at some point in their lives.


Mental health patients need to know what is Somatic Symptom Disorder. Somatic symptom disorder is a complex condition that can significantly impact an individual’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. However, with the right treatment approach and coping strategies, individuals can learn to manage their symptoms effectively and improve overall quality of life.

Seeking help from a psychiatrist is crucial in developing a personalized treatment plan that addresses the specific needs of each individual. 


Some of the frequently asked question by people are mentioned below:

What’s the difference between somatic symptom disorder and conversion disorder?

Somatic symptom disorder typically involves excessive thoughts and worries about the symptoms, whereas conversion disorder includes specific sensory or motor symptoms that cannot be attributed to any medical cause.

What is somatoform disorder?

Somatic symptom disorder was previously known as a somatoform disorder until the DSM-5 renamed it to better reflect the underlying psychological factors contributing to the condition.

What is the main difference between somatic symptom disorder and factitious disorder?

Somatic symptom disorder involves genuine physical symptoms, whereas factitious disorder involves intentionally causing or exaggerating symptoms for attention and sympathy.

What is the difference between illness anxiety disorder and somatic symptom disorder?

Illness anxiety disorder involves excessive fear and preoccupation with having or developing a severe illness, while somatic symptom disorder involves distress and concern about physical symptoms.