Psychosomatic disorder is a psychological condition that leads to physical symptoms, often without any medical explanation. It can affect almost any part of the body. People with the disorder tend to seek frequent medical attention, becoming frustrated with no diagnosis. Behavioral therapy and stress reduction may help.
Psychosomatic disorder is a psychological condition involving the occurrence of physical symptoms, usually lacking a medical explanation. People with this condition may have excessive thoughts, feelings or concerns about the symptoms — which affects their ability to function well.
People with psychosomatic disorder usually don’t report overt symptoms of psychiatric distress. Instead, they believe their problems are caused by medical conditions. They tend to visit healthcare providers frequently to get tests and treatments, often not receiving a diagnosis, which may lead to frustration and distress.
Psychosomatic disorder is sometimes called somatic symptom disorder, somatic symptoms or somatic pain.
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Somatic symptom disorder is common, occurring in about 5% to 7% of the general population. For reasons that are not understood, women have somatic pain about 10 times more often than men.
Anyone can have somatic symptoms at any age.
Studies have found that certain things may make people more likely to have somatic symptoms:
Psychosomatic disorder can affect almost any part of the body. Common examples include:
Scientists aren’t sure. Some believe that stress releases hormones and chemicals in the body that cause damage or dysfunction.
In addition to the somatic symptom itself (for example, pain or upset stomach), people with psychosomatic disorder often:
A healthcare provider can begin to diagnose psychosomatic disorder based on:
To be diagnosed with somatic symptom disorder, a person must have:
A healthcare provider might order some tests to rule out other medical conditions, such as blood tests or imaging. But when healthcare providers believe that symptoms are psychosomatic, they usually don’t order any tests. Instead, they try to protect their patients from the stress and expense of unnecessary tests and procedures.
Several treatments can help people with somatic pain symptoms, including:
Strategies to reduce and manage stress may help you prevent or lessen somatic symptoms. Examples include:
Many people learn to control and lessen somatic pain symptoms over time. However, even with treatment, psychosomatic symptoms may come and go throughout life.
If you’ve been diagnosed with psychosomatic disorder, consider asking your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Psychosomatic disorder is a psychological condition. It leads to physical symptoms, usually without any other medical explanation or diagnosis. It can affect almost any part of the body. People with somatic symptoms often seek frequent medical attention for tests and treatments. They tend to become increasingly worried or anxious. It’s important to know that somatic symptom disorder is not the same as “faking it” or exaggerating symptoms. They're real and distressing symptoms — the origin just happens to be psychological instead of medical. If you have long-lasting, unexplained symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider. Behavioral therapies and lifestyle changes can help. They can also prevent unnecessary tests and treatments.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/30/2021.
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