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Dr. Cassidy Blair, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist | PSY 22022

Dr. Cassidy Blair, Psy.D.

Somatic Symptom Disorder

This is a psychological disorder that is characterized by an abnormal focus on physical symptoms. Symptoms are physical effects associated with various kinds of illnesses, and, typically, each particular illness or disease has it own distinct and identifiable series of specific physical symptoms. There are also general physical symptoms, such as fatigue or pain of various kinds. Associated with the physical symptoms are varying forms of mental or emotional distress, anxiety, and/or depression. Sometimes, the somatic symptom disorder is associated with an actual illness or disease, but for which the patient is responding inappropriately or out of proportion to the expected symptoms, or to unexpected symptoms.


Symptoms Obsession: While we all are concerned about the condition of our health, in a way something like hypochondriacs, people demonstrating somatic symptom disorder as preoccupied with what they interpret to be the symptoms of one or more unidentified illnesses or diseases out of proportion to reality. As with many people who, with the appearance of some unusual or unexpected physical symptom, they go to the doctor to discover the cause, the person with somatic symptom disorder, they may or may not go to the doctor and, if they go to the doctor, may or may not believe the doctor’s diagnosis and prescribed treatment.


Indicators of Somatic Symptoms Disorder:


  • Generalized fatigue, or weakness or more specific shortness of breath or localized or general pain.
  • These symptoms cannot be directly related to a general or specific medical cause that has been identified, or symptoms associated to a particular cause, like heart disease or cancer, but different from the common symptoms that are typically expected.
  • Single symptoms, or multiple symptoms, or various symptoms.
  • The symptoms experienced may be severe, moderate, or mild.



The most common symptom is pain of some sort.


The symptoms are the cause of excessive worry and preoccupation, feelings, or behavior resulting from the consciousness of the symptoms. In turn, the worries, preoccupation, feelings, and behaviors in various ways create problems for the regular daily functioning of the individual. In some cases, the problems may be disabling.


Thoughts, feelings and behaviors:


  • Worrying constantly about potential illnesses.
  • The interpretation of common physical sensations as signs of severe illnesses or diseases.
  • Unreasoning fears that symptoms are serious despite evidence to the contrary.
  • Interpreting physical sensations as being harmful and/or life-threatening.
  • Believing that medical evaluations have not been adequate or correct.
  • Fears that physical activity my be harmful or injurious to your body.
  • Regular and repeatedly checking your body for abnormalities.
  • Frequent visits to doctors for health care services that either do not relieve the symptoms or seem to make them worse.
  • Unresponsiveness to medical treatment.
  • Unusual sensitivities or medication side effects.
  • Experiencing severe impairments beyond those expected for particular medical conditions.



Your feelings are the key to understanding somatic symptom disorder. While the physical symptom that you experience may seem significant, more significant are the emotional feelings and reactions that you have that are focused on the symptoms. How you interpret and react to the symptoms and how that effects your daily life is a critical issue.


Of course, in the case of physical symptoms, see your medical doctor first. But after doing so and having followed the treatment and taking the medications prescribed for you, if the symptoms continue, it may be a signal of somatic symptom disorder. If you suspect that there is more to your symptoms than medicine is treating and recognize the mental and emotions effects the symptoms are having on your daily life, you should see a psychologist. A professional psychologist can help you identify the emotional issues related to the symptoms that you are feeling and can help in alleviating and mitigating them through a number of possible approaches and techniques.

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