Psychosomatic disorder

You are here

Definition

Psychosomatic disorder or somatic symptom disorder can be described by an extreme focus on physical symptoms that causes major emotional distress and problems functioning. The reactions to the symptoms are disproportionate, and become a central focus in the individual’s life which can lead to disability.1

  • At least one physical symptom that causes disruption in daily life
  • Excessive thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to the physical symptoms
  • High level of anxiety about health or symptoms
The exact cause of somatic symptom disorder isn't clear, but the following factors play a role:
  • Genetic and biological factors
  • Personality trait of negativity
  • Problems processing emotions
  • The attention or other benefits gained from having an illness
  • Having anxiety or depression
  • Having a medical condition or recovering from one
  • Being at risk of developing a medical condition
  • Experiencing or have experienced stressful life events
  • Having a lower level of education and socio-economic status
Little is known on how to prevent psychosomatic disorder. If you think you have somatic symptom disorder, get treatment early to help stop symptoms from getting worse and impairing your quality of life.
Treatment for somatic symptom disorder typically involves1:
  • Regular visits with a trusted health care provider: the provider can offer support and monitor health and symptoms.
  • Psychotherapy: it can help the individual change their thinking and behavior, and learn ways to cope with pain or other symptoms, deal with stress and improve functioning.
  • Antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications can be useful if the person is also experiencing depression or anxiety.
Funded by

Vulnerability, Trauma, Resilience & Culture Laboratory
School of Psychology
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Ottawa

136 Jean-Jacques Lussier, Ottawa, ON,
Canada, K1N 6N5
613-562-5800 ext. 4459
vtrac@uOttawa.ca