10 Sep 2022


Somatoform Disorders: Causes and Treatment

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Academic level: College

Paper type: Term Paper

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Somatoform disorders are an assortment of psychological health conditions where a patient has physical symptoms that are inconsistent and which cannot be entirely depicted through any essential traditional medicinal or neurologic condition ( Grabe et al., 2003) . Physical conditions that cannot be explained somatically account for at least fifty percent of new outpatient visits to a medical facility. Most of these complaints are of little-known etiology and cannot be entirely determined medically. The larger population which reports or show these symptoms sometimes become psychologically stressed due to the pain, like stomachaches and headaches, they feel and the feeling that the root problem cannot be identified. 

These physical pains in some cases do not interfere with the individual's physiological functioning because they are transient and occur in different occasions and times depending on the person’s mental status. However, since many things can cause pain, the people diagnosing the patients are often reluctant to make the appropriate connotation that it (the pain) is psychological in nature ( Grabe et al., 2003) . This comes from the fact that no patient wants to hear that the “pain is in your head.” It becomes worse in this situation when the general practitioner tells the patient of the psychological pain when to them, the distress resulting from it is significant. Somatoform disorders include a broad range of diseases. They include Conversion, Hypochondriasis, Body Dysmorphic, Pain, and Somatization disorders ( Grabe et al., 2003) . In this paper, I will talk about pain disorder. This is because I am diagnosed with this kind of disease. 

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Pain Disorder 

This type of condition is based on the occurrence of pain in at least one part of the body that cannot be fully described medically (Mayou et al., 2005). The signs are attached to the emotional and functional impairment, and it is associated with the psychological factors. Although I fail to believe this as I have experienced severe pains in most cases, it is important to note the extent and not leave anything to chance. 


The problem began four years ago on a trip to Egypt when I started having stomach problems. After the trip, I began experiencing discomfort in my abdomen. I noticed that the pain was becoming unbearable and persisted, so it warranted the doctor’s attention. The symptoms that I had included cramp feelings. The muscles of my stomach seemed to contract rapidly causing much pain, especially at night. The feeling comes and goes. This causes excessive discomfort and makes me want just to lie down. Another symptom is constipation and diarrhea. At some point, this feeling comes, and when I visit the toilet, I pass out a smelly wind. The entire stomach problems don’t come at once, but alternate. This has gone for the past four years. Various diagnoses have been carried out including gastroscopy, but nothing has been tangibly found. The doctor once said that the illness is all in my head. Till now, it is not clear what caused the condition, and the underlying disease is yet to be diagnosed. 


At first, I thought this was a sign of eating contaminated food. As time went by, the symptoms persisted, and I now realized it is more than I expected. The more the time elapsed, the more I became scared of the way this disease was affecting me. At some point, I thought there could be a serious indication in my body and that the stomach problem was just a way of the body communicating with me. For instance, I believed there was an infection, maybe an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Afterward, I thought I had ulcers, and in the extreme, I had a feeling of cancer. It scared me, and I had to move from one practitioner to the next seeking answers, but it all proved futile. The disorder affected my work and relationship. My job included sitting for long hours. But since the onset of this disorder, it came with much pain, and I felt too uncomfortable to sit. I had to move from a full time to part time job. At some point, I had to stop working to nurse it. It was devastating, and it even affected my mental status. Before, exercise was a routine. After the pain, it became too difficult to work out, and I had to stop. The disorder affected my relationship with my spouse. We used to go out for dinner, but now we don’t. The pain is a distraction that cannot give someone peace of mind when out on a meal with your significant other. We had to concentrate much at home. 

The disease seems to lead to the situation I am, regarding interpersonal relationships. When my spouse is away on his business trips, the level of pain appear to be unbearable, and at some point, I think I need him to be always close for me to be better. When there is a happy moment in the family, it seems that the pain reduces. This has been the case with the previous experience of occasions such as weddings where I thought I would be disadvantaged to attend due to the pain. Surprisingly, my condition improves and the moment seems to pass smoothly without feeling any compelling signs. This makes me wonder whether the doctor was right when saying the disease is all in my head. I had to seek means of coping with the illness. Most of the time, because I always stay at home, I engage myself in activities that make myself in the right mental state. At night, I would feel my abdomen using my hands to see if anything has changed or if there is a tumor starting to grow. 

Help from Mental Health Professionals 

As far as this disorder is concerned, the mind plays a major role in ensuring it either persists or goes away ( Smith et al., 2009) . For example, as I already said, the symptoms get better in the right mood like in the case of a wedding and also gets worse in a bad mood, like when the spouse is away for weeks. As a result, there is a role that the psychiatrist can play in ensuring the best outcome. Therapy can be helpful as I have seen in some conditions where the doctors explained that the mental status is to blame for what I feel ( Smith et al., 2009) . The psychiatrist can help in ensuring I change the errors in my perception of the condition and make me believe in the correct beliefs. The irrational beliefs are costing me regarding recovery. Through the mental health professional, I can understand the nature of my condition and demystify any real fears of underlying causes ( Smith et al., 2009) . The doctor can also help in creating a problem-solving skills map to enable me to deal amply with my stress. 


Many times, people with such complications as mine are met with social skepticism. They feel accused and looked down upon as having imaginary complaints ( Kroenke, 2007) . This leads to frustration and mental unease. The family can be helpful in ensuring there is enough social support. The family functions have proved to relieve the pain and hence increase the outcome. Also, the family can help in finding the right doctor and being there when I need help. The spouse can be the first person to respond to my plea when the pain strikes because of the closeness we have. The family has to be part of the psychotherapy and for them also to understand the treatment ( Kroenke, 2007)

In conclusion, somatoform disorders are a real threat to the functionality of an individual. Despite the causes and etiology being a mirage, there are grave consequences that may arise. The people diagnosing the patients are often reluctant to make the appropriate connotation that it (the pain) is psychological in nature thus causing more unease to the patient. However, several interventions can be carried out to ease the feeling. A psychiatrist is essential in offering treatment while the family members and spouse help with the social well-being. 


Grabe, H. J., Meyer, C., Hapke, U., Rumpf, H. J., Freyberger, H. J., Dilling, H., & John, U. (2003). Somatoform pain disorder in the general population.    Psychotherapy and psychosomatics ,    72 (2), 88-94. 

Kroenke, K. (2007). Efficacy of treatment for somatoform disorders: a review of randomized controlled trials.    Psychosomatic medicine ,    69 (9), 881-888. 

Mayou, R., Kirmayer, L. J., Simon, G., Kroenke, K., & Sharpe, M. (2005). Somatoform disorders: time for a new approach in DSM-V. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(5), 847-855. 

Smith, G. C., Clarke, D. M., Handrinos, D., Dunsis, A., & McKenzie, D. P. (2009). Consultation-liaison psychiatrists’ management of somatoform disorders.    Psychosomatics ,    41 (6), 481-489. 

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