What are somatoform disorders and how are they treated?

It is difficult for an individual who suffers from a somatoform disorder to get proper medical care due to the fact that these disorders are very hard to recognize. A somatoform disorder is characterized by physical pain that cannot be attributed to a pre-existing medical condition, substance or drug abuse, or any other determinable medical source.

Patients complain of pains and symptoms that cannot be explained through tests or examinations. The symptoms and pains that a patient with somatoform will describe are virtually undetectable even though they are causing the patient to be severely impeded in their everyday activities. It is common for a person with a somatoform disorder to have an extensive medical history that includes many health problems and even mental health problems.

Due to the confusing nature of the disorder, many patients are considered hypochondriacs or fakes, but a true somatoform disorder involves symptoms that are not under a patient’s voluntary control. Even though the root of their pain cannot be seen, the patient is still experiencing real pain. The most common symptoms that are reported by a somatoform disorder sufferer are headache, cramping, pelvic pain, and back pain.

Patients also may experience gastrointestinal problems, sexual function difficulties, diarrhea, vomiting, and joint pain. The medical community considers this condition to be a real problem because patients put a real drain on resources with their unyielding complaints.

Substantially more women than men suffer from somatoform disorders. Many experts believe that the culture in our country is the reason for the gap in the gender ratio. Women are not expected to be as strong and brave as men it is far more socially acceptable for a woman to be weak, to need to be taken care of. Men, on the other hand, are raised to put on a brave face even in the face of pain.

The mind is such a powerful thing – having these gender-based societal implications in our subconscious can actually alter our physical state. Stress is another factor that contributes to our physical health and mental clarity. Women are more likely to get stressed out than men about physical problems they worry about how long symptoms will last and whether or not they are taking proper medication for their ailment.

Men, on the other hand, try to ignore sickness unless it is truly unbearable, and therefore they avoid the anxiety that women insist on indulging in.

It is very frustrating for somatoform sufferers because they are questioned about the legitimacy of their sickness regularly. They are often scoffed at by professionals who feel they are seeking attention rather than medical aid. The cause of the disorder is unknown, although some professionals feel that it can be attributed to a problem with nerve endings.

It is also known to be a disorder that can run in families. Some people feel that lifestyle can also contribute to the development of a somatoform disorder, but there isn’t a direct link that can be made at this time. Treatments for this disorder are limited, and many sufferers endure these symptoms throughout their lifetime at fairly regular intervals.

Somatoform disorders have not been shown to decrease a person’s lifespan, and the goal in treatment is to manage the symptoms so that a patient can live a relatively normal life despite the occasional pains.

Often, medication is not offered to somatoform sufferers, although it is possible that a doctor will prescribe some pain medication depending on the intensity of a patient’s symptoms. It is also recommended that patients seek psychiatric help in conjunction with medical assistance.

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