By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Your mind and your body are connected.
The Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders chapter in the DSM 5 covers a group of disorders in which both the body and the emotions play a role. A lot of people think of the mind and the body as two separate things. They would like to believe that if you are sick, that means there was something wrong in your body. Otherwise – your pain is all in your head. The truth is emotional problems can make you physically ill, and illnesses that originated the body can significantly impact your emotional health.
People with Somatic Symptom and Related Disorder are primarily seen in medical settings, often by primary care physicians. They are less often seen in mental health settings, and then primarily because their doctor referred them. Some of these conditions are quite rare in the general population. If a condition affects one in 300 people, then there would be over 1,000,000 people in the U.S. with that condition.
Many emotional and mental disorders create physical symptoms in the body. Depression characteristically causes changes in sleep and appetite as well as a loss of energy and motivation. Anxiety disorders can cause dizziness, sweating, light-headedness, shortness of breath, and many other physical symptoms. Panic Disorder manifests with symptoms similar to a heart attack or respiratory failure.
This group of disorders displays significant physical or somatic symptoms. The pain and suffering of the body are readily apparent. In these conditions, there is also significant distress and impairment in your ability to work, create, and maintain relationships, or enjoy other important areas of your life. People with Somatic Symptoms Disorders are very upset by their symptoms.
This family of diagnoses should not be used simply because the doctor has been unable to find a medical explanation for the condition. Somatic Symptoms Disorders also require a change in the way the patient sees their symptoms. What the doctor or therapist is looking for is the way in which the patient’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, are being altered because of the physical symptoms. Somatic Symptom Disorder, the most common among this family of disorders, is often present in combination with another diagnosed physical illness. When both conditions are present, it becomes more difficult to treat and may require the services of both a medical doctor and a therapist.
Risk factors for developing a Somatic Symptom Disorder.
Having a history of traumatic experiences in early life increases the risk of a Somatic Symptom Disorder. Stress is more than just a feeling. When under stress, hormones, and neurotransmitters change. Living with high levels of stress hormones alters the functioning of the nervous system. Other risk factors include increased sensitivity to pain, chronic pain, or living in an environment where no one listens to your needs unless you report physical pain.
Other disorders related to somatic symptoms.
Here is a short list of other disorders related to Somatic Symptom Disorder.
Illness Anxiety Disorder.
False Pregnancy (Pseudocyests)
Brief forms of Somatic Symptom Disorders.
As with the other things we are calling a mental illness, these conditions need to interfere with your ability to work or go to school, your relationships, your enjoyable activities or cause you personal distress. Otherwise, you may have the issues, but you will not get the diagnoses if this is not causing you a problem. If the only time this happens is when under the influence of drugs or medicines, or because of some other physical or medical problem, this problem needs to be more severe than your situation would warrant. These other issues need treating first; then if you still have symptoms, you could get this diagnosis.
FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching, and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions, please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!
My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.
Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.
Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.
As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.
Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.
Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.
Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.
What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?
Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.
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