Somatic Symptom Disorders: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Dr. Archana Shukla

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Archana Shukla


5 min read


Somatic symptom disorders are one of the types of mental illnesses that increase stress and anxiety. The main somatic symptom is that your worry for physical health can disturb your mental health.

Key Takeaways

  • Somatic symptom disorders can affect your normal routine
  • Somatoform disorder is more prevalent in women than men
  • Pain and body aches and are some physical somatic symptoms

Somatic symptom disorders pertain to a specific mental condition wherein you get agitated and worried about your physical symptoms. When you encounter somatic symptoms, there is a high possibility of unwanted thoughts disturbing your mind. This can affect your day-to-day behavior as well. In simple words, you tend to overthink, which can have adverse effects on your mental health. Subsequently, the normal functioning of your life comes to a standstill.

In most cases, you tend to ignore your existing mental health while focusing more on your physical symptoms. For instance, if you experience minor somatic symptoms such as tiredness or pain, there are chances that you blow it out of proportion. These symptoms may not be linked to any physical health condition, but your reaction to them can affect your mental well-being.

Read on to get an insight on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of somatic symptom disorders.

Additional read: 5 Effective Relaxation Techniques

Causes of Somatic Symptom Disorders

Such conditions were formerly referred to as somatization disorders or somatoform disorders. A range of psychological or biological factors can be responsible for these mental illness conditions. While these can occur before you hit 30 years of age, reports suggest a higher prevalence of somatic symptom disorders in women when compared to men. Approximately 5-7% of the population experiences these somatization disorders [1].

You may be prone to somatic symptom disorders: 

  • If you have been sensitive to pain since birth  
  • If you are unable to deal with stress  
  • If your emotional awareness is low 
  • If you are following irregular lifestyle patterns 
  • If you have been neglected during childhood 
  • If you have been a victim of sexual abuse 
Additional read: 7 Types of Mental IllnessesComplications of Somatic Symptom Disorders

Symptoms of Somatic Symptom Disorders

It is important to be aware of somatoform disorder symptoms, which may be mild or severe. One of the prime symptoms of somatic symptom disorders is the belief that you are facing a medical condition, which may not be true at all. A few additional signs you need to watch out for include:

Physical somatic symptoms such as 

  • Pain 
  • Inability to breathe properly 
  • General body aches and weakness

Mental signs of somatic symptom disorders such as 

  • Getting anxious about simple illnesses like colds or coughs  
  • Worrying constantly about your physical issues 
  • Visiting doctors regularly without any cause  
  • Undergoing multiple diagnostic tests and still not being satisfied 
  • Spending your valuable time and energy on assessing your health conditions 
  • Increasing dependency on your friends and family by constantly demanding help from them 
  • Feeling helpless in such a way as to disrupt your normal routine  

Diagnose Somatic Symptom Disorders

Your doctor may physically examine you to rule out the possibility of any physical condition. If you are not experiencing any severe physical symptoms, you may have to consult a mental health specialist. With an increase in different types of mental illnesses affecting all age groups today, watch out for signs and symptoms and address them without delay. It is important to acknowledge the role of mental health and prioritize it, according to WHO [2].

Your mental health doctor may begin your diagnosis by enquiring about your health conditions and your family history. On the basis of these facts, you may be diagnosed with the somatic symptom disorders if: 

  • Your physical symptoms hinder your normal routine 
  • You overthink and always feel anxious about your health 
  • You experience such symptoms for a period exceeding six months

Treatment Somatic Symptom Disorders

The main goal of treatment is to enhance the quality of your life while ensuring to relieve you from stress and anxiety regarding your physical health conditions. Some of the common methods adopted to treat somatoform disorders include psychotherapy and taking certain medications that help improve your mental health.

By taking antidepressants, your anxiety levels can be minimized considerably. These medicines may also ease your joint pain, body aches, and sleep issues. In most cases, you may have to take these medications in combination with psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy, also known as cognitive behavioral therapy, helps your mental health therapist to recognize negative traits. Undergoing this therapy can help you cope with somatoform disorders easily. Also called talk therapy, this helps you minimize your irrational and unusual thoughts.

Here are a few other advantages of psychotherapy when it comes to somatic symptom disorders: 

  • Helps you find ways by which you will be able to control your stress 
  • Helps you assess your thoughts and feelings about your overall health 
  • Helps you function systematically and in a more regulated way to complete your daily routine 
  • Helps you deviate from thinking about physical health ailments 
  • Helps you stay active and socially connected, despite having symptoms

Somatic Symptom Disorders -55

Lifestyle can help Decrease Somatic Symptoms

While timely treatment of somatic symptom disorders is essential, you can adopt certain self-care tips for boosting your mental well-being. Some of these steps include: 

  • Staying physically active by walking or exercising for at least a minimum of 30 minutes daily 
  • Involving yourself in various family and social gatherings  
  • Practicing different relaxation techniques to reduce your stress and anxiety 
  • Avoiding the consumption of alcohol and other harmful substances that can worsen your condition  

Consuming wholesome and nutritious food for mental health, such as fruits and vegetables 

  • Visiting your mental health therapist and physician regularly to discuss your health issues 

Whether it is an adult or child, mental health and well-being are of utmost importance for everyone. Now that you are aware of somatic symptom disorders, take precautionary measures and address them without delay. To address your mental health concerns, you can connect to experienced psychologists and psychiatrists on Bajaj Finserv Health. Book a doctor consultation on the Bajaj Finserv Health website or the app and get your symptoms resolved. Get timely support and prioritize your mental health!

Published on 27 May 2022Last updated on 12 Apr 2023

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

Dr. Archana Shukla

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Archana Shukla

, MBBS 1 , MD - Psychiatry 3


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