Open main menu

Wikibooks β

Emergency Medicine/Psychosomatic Disorders

< Emergency Medicine

Somatoform disorder is a relatively new term for what many people used to refer to as psychosomatic disorder. In somatoform disorders, the physical symptoms cannot be explained by any underlying physical disease. In some cases of somatoform disorders, a physical disease is present that might explain the occurrence but not the severity or duration of the physical symptoms. People with somatoform disorders are not faking illness; they sincerely believe that they have a serious physical problem.

The most commonly diagnosed somatoform disorders are somatization disorder, conversion disorder, hypochondriasis, body dysmorphic disorder, and pain disorder. The individual people who are diagnosed with a somatoform disorder vary greatly. Treatment approaches also vary according to which somatoform disorder a person has.


Before establishing the diagnosis of a somatoform disorder, the doctor makes sure that the child does not have a physical illness that could account for the symptoms. However, extensive laboratory tests are generally avoided because they may further convince the child that a physical problem exists and unnecessary diagnostic tests may themselves traumatize the child. If no physical illness can be found, the doctor then talks to the child and family members to try to identify underlying psychologic problems or troubled family relationships.


Increasingly doctors are recognizing the importance of dealing with psychological and social factors in relation to physical disease. As a result, many doctors now try to deal with the whole person. This means taking all these factors into consideration. By doing this, it is important to realize that the doctor is not playing down or ignoring the physical disease. Many people with so-called psychosomatic disorders feel that their doctor does not take them seriously. They feel that the doctor believes that it's all in the mind . The doctor will always attempt to treat the physical illness with appropriate medical treatment if necessary. But he will also be interested to understand more about the person who has the illness. This will in turn help him and the patient to understand the illness better. Sometimes psychotherapy or talking treatment can help. Patients are given the opportunity and time to talk about their feelings and emotions. This will help provide them with an insight into themselves and help them understand their illness better. Sometimes it is helpful to look at the whole lifestyle of the person involved. This may require looking at how the stress is dealt with, teaching techniques for stress management, as well as examining factors such as diet and exercise.