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Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders Introduction

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

serious young woman

Prior to the release of the DSM-5, these disorders were called Somatoform Disorders and also commonly known as Conversion Disorders. They included Conversion Disorder, Hypochondriasis, and Somatization Disorder. Those with one of these conditions have bodily or physical symptoms, not mental health ones. They usually see a medical doctor first for treatment.

This category now includes 5 major disorders including:

  • Somatic Symptom Disorder
  • Illness Anxiety Disorder
  • Conversion Disorder
  • Psychological Factors Affecting Other Medical Conditions
  • Factitious Disorder
  • Other Specified Somatic Symptom and Related Disorder (for people that have some of the symptoms of the other disorders, but don't technically meet the criteria for any of them in full.)

Those with these disorders aren't diagnosed by the symptoms that they are having. Instead, it is by the way that they are showing those symptoms and how they explain them. People used to think that someone with one of these disorders wasn't having "real" physical symptoms and that it was "all in their head." In all of the conditions, except Factitious Disorder, people are not faking their symptoms. It is not all in their head. The symptoms are causing a lot of stress and problems in their daily lives.

It is not ok to say that someone has a mental disorder simply because a medical cause can't be found for symptoms that they are having. It could be possible that they have a medical disorder causing some of the symptoms, but how they are understanding and reacting to those symptoms then meets criteria for one of these disorders as well.