Somatoform Disorders



The conditions called Somatoform Disorders are those that demonstrate real physical pain or other physical symptoms, suggesting a physical disorder, but cannot be explained by medical tests or knowledge. Nor do they respond to traditional medical treatment. They were previously known as psychosomatic disorders.


Patients are mostly female, and they tend to focus on symptoms (which are real and non-delusional). A somatoform disorder presents a frustrating situation for everyone involved, because the doctor declares the problem is psychogenic and the patient then feels she is being called a fake, usually resulting in her distrust of professional opinion or expertise.


The subtypes of somatoform disorders are as follows: 1) somatization disorders, 2) conversion disorders, 3) pain disorders, 4) hypochondriasis, and 5) body dysmorphic disorders. The form that is probably most familiar to the lay person is the conversion disorder, where there is actual loss of or radical change in a physical function (with emphasis on the word actual). Some of the most commonly known examples are “hysterical” blindness or paralysis, false pregnancy, “glove” or other anesthesia, etc. There are also medical conditions that mimic Somatoform Disorders, so health professionals (physicians and psychologists alike) must be very careful in examining the patient and making the diagnosis.