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Anxiety Disorder = Physical Disorder

Headaches, pain, stomach discomfort, sexual performance problems? After ruling out physical disorders by your MD, and still no solution, you may consult a trusted mental health practitioner.

The technical term for physical manifestation of mental issues is “Somatoform Disorders”.

The symptoms involve several different organs and body systems. The patient may report a combination of:

  • Pain
  • Neurologic problems
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Sexual symptoms

Many people who have somatization disorder will also have an anxiety disorder, if it is not the result of substance abuse or another mental illness.

A diagnosis of a somatoform disorder can create a lot of stress and frustration for patients. They may feel unsatisfied that there’s no known explanation for their symptoms. Stress often leads patients to become more worried about their health. This creates a vicious cycle that can persist for years.

Fellow mental health professionals may help clients assess such concerns such as:

Hypochondriasis . People with this type are preoccupied with concern they have a serious disease. They may believe that minor complaints are signs of very serious medical problems. For example, they may believe that a common headache is a sign of a brain tumor.

Body dysmorphic disorder. People with this disorder are obsessed with — or may exaggerate — a physical flaw. Patients may also imagine a flaw they don’t have.

Conversion disorder. This condition strikes when people have neurological symptoms that can’t be traced back to a medical cause.

Pain disorder. People who have pain disorder typically experience pain that started with a psychological stress or trauma. Stress usually makes symptoms of conversion disorder worse.

Somatoform disorder not otherwise specified. People with this type may have conditions that have features of other somatoform disorders. But they do not meet the full criteria for any other diagnosis.

Patients who experience unexplained physical symptoms often cling to the belief that their symptoms have an underlying physical cause, despite evidence to the contrary. Patients may also dismiss any suggestion that psychiatric factors are playing a role in their symptoms.

     Cognitive behavioral therapy may help relieve symptoms associated with somatoform disorders.

(Omaya, O. American Family Physician, Nov. 1, 2007.First, M. and Tasman, A., Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on May 29, 2014,

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