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Somatoform Disorders

Treating Medical Conditions That Do Not Exist

Somatoform disorders are characterized by physical symptoms that exist without a biological cause; in other words, the patient feels or sees something that isn’t there or that is exaggerated by psychological means. Some symptoms of somatoform disorders include:

  • Feelings of pain
  • Symptoms which suggest a disease with evidence that does not support the existence of those symptoms
  • Obsession or preoccupation with imaginary symptoms

It can be very difficult for a person with a somatoform disorder to accept that the symptoms that they are feeling are not real. If someone you know has the symptoms of a somatoform disorder, treatment may be very beneficial and learning about somatoform disorders is a helpful first step.

How Somatic Illnesses Form

The causes of somatic illnesses vary depending on the particular condition, but some of the most common causes are stress, personality disorders, and societal influence. Somatic illnesses can vary in extent and can last anywhere from a few days to several years without treatment; some somatic illnesses get more severe over time. As the symptoms of these conditions become more severe, their effects can also become more pronounced, and patients may find it difficult to behave normally in social situations.

Somatoforms may also spend a tremendous amount of money trying to diagnose medical conditions when the possibility of those conditions has been ruled out. People with pain disorders are particularly prone to this effect.

Because of the serious effects of somatic illness and the wide range of conditions that fall under this very broad heading, it’s best to seek a diagnosis from a psychiatrist or psychologist after recognizing the symptoms of somatoforms. For many patients, the recommendation to seek a therapist comes from a medical doctor after tests fail to show a cause for perceived biological symptoms, but you can also encourage a loved one to seek treatment or even seek treatment yourself if you’re aware of a somatic condition.

Treating Somatic Conditions Effectively

Psychotherapy is one of the more effective ways to treat somatic conditions. A therapist looks for the reasons of the somatic disorder and helps the patient find ways to understand and deal with these causes. The therapist might work to develop a plan of recovery for the patient and in some cases medication might be prescribed, particularly if the somatic condition is thought to be caused by stress or anxiety. However, most of the treatment will involve a psychiatric session that removes the cause of the condition and treating any other related conditions that could cause the somatic disorder to reappear.

As mentioned above, somatic conditions can become worse over time. It’s best to treat them as early as possible. Many people with somatic conditions worry about the cost and time spent in treatment, but the cost of medical testing and a preoccupation with a somatic illness will easily exceed the costs and time commitment of therapy. Nevertheless, it’s best to discuss costs with a psychologist before starting treatment sessions, and patients with limited incomes can often find special therapy programs from psychologists or sociologists that can further limit the cost of psychotherapy.

A good psychiatrist or psychologist can make a major difference in the life of a person with a somatic condition and can offer a source of relief within a few months, weeks, or even a few days of treatment. Seek help for a somatic condition as soon as it becomes apparent, and the chances of successfully preventing the condition from recurring become very favorable for you or your family members.

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