Somatic (or physical) symptom disorders involve pronounced physical problems accompanied with a high level of health concern that diminishes work and home life. These disorders include abnormal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors about real or perceived health problems. For example, when a health problem occurs, the extreme concern about them is often greater than the actual physical problem itself.
People with these disorders describe physical pain and discomfort. They see these symptoms as real health problems, not a mental health issue. These concerns can lead to unneeded tests, surgeries, or medication that may in turn cause a great deal of stress and frustration.
A person can have both a medical disorder and a somatic symptom at the same time. Strong health concerns do not constitute a somatic symptom diagnosis only because a medical issue cannot be found. However, for some somatic symptom disorders, the lack of a medical cause for the symptoms is still a key factor in diagnosis. Risk factors include increased sensitivity to pain and early trauma or neglect.
There are four somatic symptom disorders. Somatic symptom disorder, conversion disorder, illness anxiety disorder, and factitious disorder. Each of these share a common feature: People who suffer from this will more likely visit a health care clinic or hospital instead of seeking mental health care, each marked by a great concern for physical health.