Somatization disorder is a long-term (chronic) condition in which a person has physical symptoms that involve more than one part of the body, but no physical cause can be found.
The pain and other symptoms people with this disorder feel are real, and are not created or faked on purpose (malingering).
The disorder usually begins before age 30 and occurs more often in women than in men. The disorder is more common in people with irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pain.
In the past, this disorder was thought to be related to emotional stress. The pain was dismissed as being "all in their head."
However, patients who have a somatization disorder seem to experience pain or other symptoms in a way that increases the level of pain. Pain and worry create a cycle that is hard to break.
People who have a history of physical or sexual abuse are more likely to have this disorder. However, not every person with a somatization disorder has a history of abuse.
As researchers study the connections between the brain and body, there is more evidence that emotional well-being affects the way in which people perceive pain and other symptoms.
Greenberg DB, Braun IM, Cassem NH. Functional somatic symptoms and somatoform disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 24.
WitthÃ¶ft M, Hiller W. Psychological approaches to origins and treatments of somatoform disorders. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2010;6:257-283.
deGruy FV. The somatic patient. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 61.
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