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Mental Health Center

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Somatoform Disorders

Types and Symptoms of Somatoform Disorders continued...

Conversion disorder. This condition strikes when people have neurological symptoms that can't be traced back to a medical cause. For example, patients may have symptoms such as:

  • paralysis
  • blindness
  • hearing loss
  • loss of sensation or numbness

Stress usually makes symptoms of conversion disorder worse.

Pain disorder. People who have pain disorder typically experience pain that started with a psychological stress or trauma.

For example, they develop an unexplained, chronic headache after a stressful life event.

Pain is the focus of the disorder. But psychological factors are believed to play a role in the perception and severity of the pain.

People with pain disorder frequently seek medical care. They may become socially isolated and experience problems with work and family life.

Somatoform disorder not otherwise specified. People with this type may have conditions that have features of other somatoform disorders. But they do not meet the full criteria for any other diagnosis.

Conditions that fall into this category include pseudocyesis. This is the mistaken belief of being pregnant based on other signs of pregnancy, including an expanding abdomen; feeling labor pains, nausea, breast changes, fetal movement; breast changes; and cessation of the menstrual period.

Treatment of Somatoform Disorders

Patients who experience unexplained physical symptoms often cling to the belief that their symptoms have an underlying physical cause, despite evidence to the contrary. Patients may also dismiss any suggestion that psychiatric factors are playing a role in their symptoms.

A strong doctor-patient relationship is a key to getting help with somatoform disorders. Seeing a single health care provider with experience managing somatoform disorders can help cut down on unnecessary tests and treatments.

The focus of treatment is on improving daily functioning, not on managing symptoms. Stress reduction is often an important part of getting better. Counseling for family and friends may also be useful.

Cognitive behavioral therapy may also help relieve symptoms associated with somatoform disorders. The therapy focuses on correcting:

  • distorted thoughts
  • unrealistic beliefs
  • behaviors that prompt health anxiety

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on May 29, 2014
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