Somatoform Disorders

Somatoform disorders are a group of psychiatric disorders that have a variety of unexplained physical symptoms. Adolescents and young adults with these disorders have abnormal thoughts, feelings and behaviors about their medical symptoms. They may cause disruption of a young person’s quality of life and daily functioning and require treatment by mental health professionals.[1]

The caring, experienced clinicians and staff at Innercept Mental Health Residential Health Treatment can provide specialized care for those suffering from these disorders and symptoms.

The symptoms of Somatoform disorders present many challenges for general physicians which often have no medical explanation, while causing emotional distress for patients.[2]

Adolescents and young adults who experience unexplained physical symptoms strongly maintain beliefs that their symptoms have a medical cause, despite evidence to the contrary. Their beliefs are based on their own false interpretation of symptoms. Patients may minimize their own psychiatric factors while exaggerating their physical symptoms.[3]

These disorders include somatization disorder, undifferentiated somatoform disorder, hypochondriasis, conversion disorder, pain disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, and somatoform disorder. false interpretation of symptoms.

  • Somatization Disorder also known as Briquet’s Syndrome includes at least two gastrointestinal complaints, four pain symptoms, one pseudo-neurologic problem, and one sexual symptom
  • Undifferentiated Somatoform Disorder includes the symptoms as Somatization Disorder and also Chronic Fatigue that cannot be explained by a medical condition.
  • Hypochondriasis patients fixate on the fear of having a life-threatening medical condition or disease and exaggerate or misinterpret physical symptoms as such.
  • Conversion Disorder involves only one symptom related to voluntary motor or sensory functioning and may include a neurological condition.
  • Pain Disorder is a common disorder where psychological factors exist and are associated with a general medical condition, but pain and the perception of pain is the predominant complaint. This disorder has common comorbidities of anxiety and depression.
  • Body dysmorphic Disorder is apreoccupation with a physical defect in oneself, either real or imagined. When the physical imperfection is real , the defect is often slight but the patient’s concern about it is excessive. This occurs in both men and women.
  • Somatoform Disorder isa psychiatric diagnosis used for conditions that do not meet the full criteria for other somatoform disorders, but  they have exaggerated or misinterpreted physical symptoms which result in impairment.[4]

Somatoform disorders often present with these unexplained symptoms:[5]

  • General health anxiety
  • Frequent and excessive preoccupation with unexplained physical symptoms
  • Inaccurate or exaggerated beliefs about symptoms
  • Difficult encounters with the health care system
  • Disproportionate disability
  • Strong and negative emotions towards physicians and staff
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Non-compliance with diagnostic or treatment efforts
  • Low pain threshold

Patient symptoms may result in frequent office visits, unnecessary lab or imaging tests, and costly or invasive procedures. Patients may suffer from more than one symptom which can range from mild to severe.[6]

Other symptoms of these disorders may include pain, neurological symptoms, digestive symptoms, and/or sexual symptoms.[7]

Causes of Somatoform Disorders

Causes of the somatoform disorders are not well understood. Epidemiologic data suggests that somatoform disorders run in families who share specific traits and behaviors. At least 50 percent of patients who visit primary care physicians present with physical symptoms that cannot be explained by a specific medical condition.[8]

Risk Factors for Somatoform Disorders

Women are ten times more likely to report Somatoform disorder symptoms than men. Comorbidities with additional mental health disorders like mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, and psychotic disorders are very common in patients who suffer from Somatoform disorders.[9]

Specific risk factors include:[10]

At Innercept Residential Mental Health Treatment, we treat individuals with even the most complex diagnoses including those who have previously failed at treatment. Our stabilization environment provides 24-hour care to newly-admitted individuals who come from psychiatric-hospital settings and have a need for a low-stimulus environment. Our medical professionals and supportive staff are on hand and available every minute to help each resident who is experiencing a severe crisis. This specific setting is geographically separate from our other program locations and progress reports are made available to parents for patients who are under our specialized care.

How we treat Somatoform Disorders

Our qualified clinicians review each patient’s health history and assess their disorder using specific criteria which includes excessive thoughts and behaviors, high levels of anxiety about symptoms and the time patients spend focused on their own symptoms. One or more symptoms must be persistently present for more than six months for an accurate diagnosis. We sometimes confirm a dual-diagnosis and we use the integral recovery model to support relapse prevention.

Our goal in treating these disorders is to help our patients manage severe symptoms and we use therapies including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBD) to help our adolescents and young adults change their patterns of unhealthy behaviors and thinking as well as helping them learn ways to cope with stress and anxiety. Sometimes we prescribe medications for patients with mood disorders, depression, pain or sleep disorders.

Our program has a 90-day minimum length of stay in which we assess and treat patients so they can heal and achieve a stable, sustainable recovery. We provide an evidence-based model with a “soft landing” environment to help each patient work their program.

Getting help from our professionally-trained therapists and medical professionals at Innercept Residential Mental Health Treatment is the best way to prevent severe reactions from Somatoform disorders and to learn to cope with symptoms so they don’t progress into acute disease. Patients learn to reduce their reactions and learn to refocus on their health during their transition to independence. Both individual and family counseling sessions help support the patient in achieving and maintaining ongoing recovery.

At Innercept Residential Mental Health Treatment, our mission is to provide the highest-level of care for each patient while providing a continuum of mental health treatment that incorporates behavioral, cognitive, social and spiritual aspects, while helping them achieve sustainable recovery.


[1] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17976-somatic-symptom-disorder-in-adults

[2] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17976-somatic-symptom-disorder-in-adults

[3] https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/1101/p1333.html

[4] https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/1101/p1333.html

[5] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17976-somatic-symptom-disorder-in-adults

[6] https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/1101/p1333.html

[7] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17976-somatic-symptom-disorder-in-adults

[8] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17976-somatic-symptom-disorder-in-adults

[9] https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/1101/p1333.html

[10] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17976-somatic-symptom-disorder-in-adults

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