How is somatic symptom disorder diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and probably order some laboratory tests to rule out diseases based on your symptoms. He or she will also ask you about your health history. If test results do not show the presence of an illness and you have the risk factors for the disorder, your doctor may refer you to a mental health provider for assessment.

A mental health specialist confirms a diagnosis of somatic symptom disorder using specific criteria. To be diagnosed, a patient:

  • Must have one or more symptoms that cause distress or disrupt daily life.
  • Must have excessive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors in response to the symptoms that meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • Overly excessive and long-lasting thoughts about the seriousness of the symptoms
    • Continuously high levels of anxiety about health or symptoms
    • Extreme amount of time and energy focused on symptoms and health concerns
  • One or more symptoms must be persistent (typically present for more than 6 months)

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