Somatic Symptom Disorder | Signs, Causes & Treatment
Somatic Symptom Disorder is also known as “somatoform disorder” or “somatization disorder”. It is a mental health disorder that causes people with this disorder to obsess over their physical symptoms of anxiety such as aches & pains, shortness of breath, or muscle weakness. This disorder is often followed by health anxiety symptoms or illness anxiety disorder.
This disorder can cause a person to feel major emotional distress. The symptoms of this disorder might be tracked to a physical condition, mental disorder, anxiety disorder, or substance abuse. However, this may cause distress nonetheless. It is also noticed that people who have SSD may also be susceptible to anxiety disorders.
Signs Of Somatic Symptom Disorder
The sign that you need to look for is; the belief that you have certain health or medical condition. Other signs you need to look for are:
- Symptoms such as pain and aches, shortness of breath, fatigue
- Constant anxiety about your health
- The thought that normal physical sensations are symptoms of a medical condition
- Excessive worry over mild conditions such as cold or cough
- The belief that your physician hasn’t conducted the proper test
- The constant worry of over-exerting your body
- Constantly checking your body for tangible signs of any illness
- Experiencing symptoms more severely than what is normal
People with SSD believe that they truly have a medical or health illness so it might get a little difficult to distinguish between the symptoms of a real condition than that of a somatic symptom disorder. Nevertheless, SSD causes people to obsess over their symptoms.
Causes Of Somatic Symptom Disorder
There aren’t any specific causes recorded for somatic symptom disorder, however, some causes could be:
- Genetically sensitive to pain
- Having a negative personality and poor self-image
- Trouble dealing with stress
- Low emotional awareness
Any of the above could be a risk factor to develop somatic symptom disorder. People with severe anxiety or depression, recovering from a chronic medical illness, high risk of developing a serious medical condition, or past traumatic experiences are more likely to develop signs ad symptoms of this disorder.
Treatment For Somatic Symptom Disorder
There are treatment options available for treating SSD:
Somatic symptom disorder can be treated with the help of talk therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy works on identifying negative and illogical thinking patterns. A therapist will work with their client/patient to come up with a positive thought process and coping mechanisms. They will also help a person learn effective yet healthy ways to manage health anxiety or depression related to SSD.
Medications such as antidepressants can help reduce symptoms of SSD and lower anxiety. Medications such as these work best if combined with psychotherapy treatment. Antidepressants can cause side effects so consult a physician first before committing to taking them. It is also possible that some antidepressants may spike up anxiety than help reduce it.
Note: Always consult your doctor before taking any medications.
A Word Of Advice
If left untreated, somatic symptom disorder can cause more distress to your overall health and well-being. Constant anxiety and worry about one’s health can make day-to-day activities difficult to perform.
While this disorder is not very dangerous to your health, it may lead you to develop fear for your health – mental, emotional, and physical. With the help of a professional mental health therapist, some self-help strategies, and medications (prescribed and recommended by a professional), the symptoms of this disorder can be manageable.
Having somatic symptom disorder can make a person feel overwhelmed but with the right help, it can be overcome and the appropriate treatment can help you improve the quality of your life.
“Don’t let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries.” – Astrid Alauda
Stay safe, stay healthy!