What are the symptoms of psychosomatic illness?

Somatoform disorders are the major forms of psychosomatic illness. The physical symptoms of somatoform disorders are real. However, they have psychological roots rather than physical causes. The symptoms often resemble symptoms of medical illnesses. As such, people suffering from somatoform disorders may undergo extensive testing and medical evaluations to determine the cause of their symptoms.

Somatoform disorders include somatization disorder, hypochondriasis, body dysmorphic disorder, and conversion disorder. These disorders can cause difficulties in everyday life, including social, academic and occupational problems.

Common symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder

People who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder become obsessed with minor flaws in their physical appearance or may see flaws where none exist. Common concerns include hair loss; the size and shape of features, such as the eyes, nose or breasts; weight gain; and wrinkles. Symptoms and associated behaviors of body dysmorphic disorder may include:

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Avoiding being seen in public and withdrawal from social situations

  • Avoiding mirrors

  • Constantly checking yourself in a mirror

  • Seeking reassurance from others about your looks

Common symptoms of conversion disorder

Symptoms of conversion disorder usually look like neurological problems and can include:

  • Blindness or double vision

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Impaired balance or coordination

  • Inability to speak (aphonia)

  • Loss of sensation

  • Paralysis or weakness

  • Seizures

  • Urinary retention

Common symptoms of hypochondriasis

Hypochondriasis is the condition of thinking that normal body functions or minor symptoms represent a serious medical condition. A person with hypochondriasis can interpret a headache as a brain tumor or muscle soreness as a sign of impending paralysis. Typical symptoms of hypochondriasis include:

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Feeling that their doctor has made a mistake by not diagnosing the cause of their symptoms

  • Repeated doctor visits until a diagnosis is made

  • Seeking constant reassurance from friends and family about their symptoms

Common symptoms of somatization disorder

Somatization disorder is characterized by physical symptoms without a physical cause. Symptoms of somatization disorder include:

  • Digestive symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea

  • Neurological symptoms, such as headache and fatigue

  • Pain

  • Sexual symptoms, such as pain during intercourse, loss of sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, and extremely painful periods in women

Symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition

People with somatoform disorders are at risk for suicidal thoughts and actions. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have attempted to hurt or kill oneself or have had thoughts about hurting or killing oneself.

People with somatoform disorders are also at risk of developing major depression. Seek prompt medical care if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms:

  • Changes in eating habits, such as overeating or loss of appetite

  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things

  • Fatigue or lack of energy

  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt or worthlessness

  • Irritability and restlessness

  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies including sex

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness

  • Sleep problems, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping


What is psychosomatic illness?

Psychosomatic is defined as concerning or involving both mind and body. Psychosomatic illnesses can be classified in three general types. The first type includes people who have both a mental (psychiatric) illness and a medical illness, and these illnesses complicate the symptoms and management of each other. The second type includes people who have a psychiatric problem that is a direct result... Read more about psychosomatic illness introduction


What causes psychosomatic illness?

The exact cause of somatoform disorders, which are the major type of psychosomatic illness, is not known. Somatoform disorders tend to run in families and may have a genetic component. Somatoform disorders may be a coping strategy, a learned behavior, or the result of a personality characteristic. They may also be linked to problems with nerve impulses that carry false signals to the brain. Whi... Read more about psychosomatic illness causes


How is psychosomatic illness treated?

Treatment of somatoform disorders, which make up the majority of psychosomatic illnesses, can be challenging. After ruling out physical causes of your symptoms, it generally focuses on establishing a trusting, supportive relationship between you and your primary care doctor. Your doctor will recommend regular checkup appointments as one of the most important parts of your treatment.

... Read more about psychosomatic illness treatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mental Health and Behavior