Somatic Symptom Disorder

Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD) is the extreme focus on physical symptoms to the point of emotional distress. This occurs when an individual feels any sort of physical pain or weakness and believes their symptoms to be worse than they actually are. They could still have a legitimate medical diagnosis but still react in an excessive way. These people truly believe they are sick and are not faking any illness. 



Symptoms of Somatic Symptom Disorder can be categorized in one of two different ways: there are the physical symptoms one experiences and their cognitive and behavioural reactions to that. The most significant marker of SSD is the way an individual interprets their symptoms rather than what the actual symptoms actually are. 

Physical symptoms

  • Specific and localized pain
  • General tiredness and fatigue
  • Could be related a medical illness or not 


Cognitive and Behavioural symptoms 

  • Constantly worrying about potential illnesses
  • Viewing normal physical symptoms as sign of illness
  • Believing that medical evaluation is not accurate 
  • Repeatedly checking your body for abornamilties
  • Having a more severe reaction than what is expected
  • Spending excessive time and energy on health concerns



Typically once an individual's starts feeling discomfort, they will consult with a physician first. When the physician informs them that there is no serious physical illness, the individual may not accept the diagnosis as they believe their condition to be life threatening. If this behaviour persists, then the physician might refer the individual to a mental health professional. Because of the nature of the disorder, individuals find it very difficult to accept they have no serious illness; however treatments such as psychotherapy and medication have been known to be very helpful. 


Causes and risk factors

There is no direct cause for Somatic Symptoms Disorder however it may be linked to genetic or biological factors. It is also possible that this disorder could be a learnt behaviour in that we are exposed to people early on in life who reacted excessively to physical symptoms and emulated that behaviour. Risk factors for this disorder include having a negative mindset and underlying psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.

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