Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size

Somatic Symptom Disorder

Some people have excessive and unrealistic worries about their health. They are very worried about getting a disease or are certain they have a disease, even after medical tests show they do not. And these people often misinterpret minor health problems or normal body functions as symptoms of a serious disease. An example is a person who is sure that her headaches are caused by a brain tumor. This condition used to be called hypochondria. Now it is called somatic symptom disorder. The symptoms associated with somatic symptom disorder are not under the person's voluntary control, and they can cause great distress and can interfere with a person's life.

Somatic symptom disorder can happen at any time of life, but most often begins in early adulthood. It affects men and women equally.

Recommended Related to Mental Health

Swoon at the Sight of Blood?

I didn’t expect to faint at the sight of my son’s blood. As a mother, my job is to nurse boo-boos -- and when when my son came to me after smashing his thumb a few months ago, I prepared to do my best Florence Nightingale. Then I saw the blood. The room began to spin. I broke out in a cold sweat. I felt all the color drain from my face. After yelling upstairs to my husband to take over, I slid to the kitchen floor. Psychologists don’t know exactly why up to 15% of us experience the plunge in blood...

Read the Swoon at the Sight of Blood? article > >

What Are the Features of Somatic Symptom Disorder?

People with somatic symptom disorder -- commonly called hypochondriacs -- are worried about having a physical illness. The symptoms they describe can range from general complaints, such as pain or tiredness, to concerns about normal body functions, such as breathing or stomach noises. People with somatic symptom disorder are not faking or lying about their symptoms; they truly believe they are sick.

Warning signs that a person might have somatic symptom disorder include:

  • The person has a history of going to many doctors. He or she may even "shop around" for a doctor who will agree that he or she has a serious illness.
  • The person recently experienced a loss or stressful event.
  • The person is overly concerned about a specific organ or body system, such as the heart or the digestive system.
  • The person's symptoms or area of concern might shift or change.
  • A doctor's reassurance does not calm the person's fears; he or she believes the doctor is wrong or made a mistake.
  • The person's concern about illness interferes with his or her work, family, and social life.
  • The person may suffer from anxiety, nervousness, and/or depression.

What Causes Somatic Symptom Disorder?

The exact cause of somatic symptom disorder is not known. Factors that might be involved in the development of the disorder include:

  • A history of physical or sexual abuse
  • A history of having a serious illness as a child
  • A poor ability to express emotions
  • A parent or close relative with the disorder; children might learn this behavior if a parent is overly concerned about disease and/or overreacts to even minor illnesses
  • An inherited susceptibility for the disorder
1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
man screaming
Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
woman looking into fridge
When food controls you.
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
senior man eating a cake
woman reading medicine warnings
depressed young woman
man with arms on table
man cringing and covering ears

WebMD Special Sections