Undifferentiated somatoform disorder falls under the larger umbrella category of somatoform disorders, and occurs when a person has a mysterious physical symptom that cannot be explained or that has no physiological origin, and the symptom(s) last for at least six months. While undifferentiated somatoform disorder involves real physical symptoms (pain is not fictitious or exaggerated for secondary gain), it is actually a psychological disorder. Researchers believe that the physical symptoms are expressed as a result of another psychological condition like stress, depression, or trauma.
Symptoms of Undifferentiated Somatoform Disorder
The symptoms of undifferentiated somatoform disorder vary widely from person to person, but most commonly include:
- Complaints of fatigue
- Appetite loss
- Gastrointestinal problems
- At least one symptom lasts for six months (main indicator of this particular somatoform disorder)
- Symptoms present themselves during times of stress
What Causes Undifferentiated Somatoform Disorder?
The causes of undifferentiated somatoform disorder are not quite clear at this point, but experts think the disorder may originate from the patient’s childhood. This is especially plausible if the affected person underwent stressful or traumatic events during their formative years. The disorder has also been linked to people with other psychological problems like depression and anxiety. In other cases, some researchers believe that undifferentiated somatoform disorder occurs partly because the patient is hypersensitive to minor changes or normal pains in the body. This doesn’t mean that the person is deliberately exaggerating symptoms, but that they unconsciously make the issue much bigger than it needs to be.
Treatment for Undifferentiated Somatoform Disorder
Treatment for undifferentiated somatoform disorder most often involves psychological therapy. When the patient is able to work through their stress, anxiety, depression or any other root of the physical symptom, they should notice the symptoms decreasing, becoming more sporadic, or ceasing completely. This depends upon how willing the patient is to work with their therapist proactively and effectively. Other helpful additions to psychotherapy are stress support groups, and medications like antidepressants. With stress management support, the person affected with this disorder can learn new, healthy ways to process and overcome stress. With this conscious effort, symptoms won’t need to express themselves physically. Antidepressants are effective especially if the root problem is depression. Any of these methods work best when complementary to regular therapy appointments.
What Should You Do?
If you have been experiencing strange and unexplained physical symptoms that no doctor has been able to figure out or treat, and this has been occurring for an extended period of time, it’s a very good idea to make an appointment with a local therapist. From there, you can decide together which treatment option works best for your case, and what will benefit you the most. If you can get to the bottom of the original problem, you’ll notice the physical pain decreasing. It can take some time, and of course, willingness and work from both parties, but it will be worth the new sense of control and a healthy, positive future.
Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders – Explanation, signs and symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment for undifferentiated somatoform disorder.
Wikipedia – Wikipedia page listing various somatoform disorders, including undifferentiated somatoform disorder which must occur for at least six months.
Encyclopedia.com – Information including causes, treatment and demographics for undifferentiated somatoform disorder.