Somatoform Definition: A disorder that encomposses a group of "mental disturbances" that is based on the external symptoms. These are mainly physical complaints that look to be from a medical origin, but cannot be explained by a physical disease, substance abuse, or another disorder. In the case of Somatoform disorders, physical symptoms are based on psychological factors.

Causes: No definite causes, but genetic and environmental influences contribute.
Children who have parents with this disorder tend to show signs of the disorder also.
Sexual abuse is associated with a higher risk of this disease.
Results in poor ability to be able to express emotion. Other causes can include but are not limited to:
  • introvert personality
  • fear of past diseases
  • self diagnostic websites (ex, WedMD)

Hypochondriasis: Somatoform disorders include unexplained physical symptoms related to fear of a specific medical condition. For example, someone who complains of breast pain and believes it is breast cancer, even if no such cancer is present, may suffer from hypochondriasis. Characteristics include: preoccupation with fear of having a serious medical illness, bodily symptoms consistent with patient's fear of specific illness, preoccupation continues even after evaluation and reassurance by a doctor, and fear continues for at least 6 months. The disorder is not linked to occur in a certain race or ethnicity. It occurs equally in men and females and can occur at any life stage.

Hypochondriasis as defined in the DMV - IV:

A. Preoccupation with fears of having, or the idea that one has, a serious disease based on the person's misinterpretation of bodily symptoms.
B. The preoccupation persists despite appropriate medical evaluation and reassurance.
C. The belief in Criterion A is not of delusional intensity (as in Delusional Disorder, Somatic Type) and is not restricted to a circumscribed concern about appearance (as in Body Dysmorphic Disorder).
D. The preoccupation causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
E. The duration of the disturbance is at least 6 months.
F. The preoccupation is not better accounted for by Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, a Major Depressive Episode, Separation Anxiety, or another Somatoform Disorder.

Meaning & Origin of Hypochondriasis: The hypochondrium is the anatomic area of the upper abdomen below the cartilage of the rib cage. "hypo" meaning below and "condros" meaning cartilage. It was thought in ancient times to be a disturbed function of the spleen and other organ of the upper abdomen.

Causes: No definite cause but someone could acquire it by hearing of reoccurring diseases in the news, also could be a stress related incident involving a loved one with this disease. May show signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. People often become a hypochondriac if they have had a certain disease in the past and fear it again. They may also know a loved one or relative who suffers from or has past away from the condition, this increases their preoccupation with the disorder. A serious prolonged illness of a child is an additional main cause. A parent or close realative with the disorder could also spark the onset of hypochonriasis.

Symptoms: Some symptoms of a hypochondriac include:
  • constant complains/concerns about bodily pains or functions
  • Frequent visits with VARIOUS doctors
  • serious illnesses as a child
  • preoccupation of illness that interfere with every day lives
  • depression, anxiety, or nervousness

Treatment: Their is no specific treatment for hypochondriacs, mainly because they refuse to believe their problems are psychological rather than physiological.Therefor, attempting to treat a hypochondriac can be extremely difficult. People benefit from a combination of treatment plans that vary from medication to psychotherapy. Medication is sometimes given if the hypochondriac suffers from a mood or anxiety disorder. However, the medication does not cure the hypochondriasis, just simply some of the symptoms of depression or anxiety. Because treatment is so difficult, pychotherapy focuses mainly on dealing with the symptoms in every day life. It is a long term condition that requires support from family and friends, online tips are available for coping with the disorder as well.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy: The process of forcing exposure to your anxiety trigger and then learning how to react appropriately. It is also recommended not to look up the symptoms online. It is easy to misdiagnose with all the innacurate information floating around online such as on WebMD. For example you could simply just sneeze and search WebMD and think you have Swine Flu.

Outlook: Approximitely 2-5 percent of people suffer from hypochondriasis. Hypochonria is a long term condition that can last for years. Often, symtoms never subside and only a small percentage of patients recover fully. The majority of individuals suffering from this disorder suffer from chronic cases.

Hypochondriasis Leads To:
OCD- An anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). It also leads to Panic Attacks which are a sudden episode of intense fear that develops for no apparent reason and triggers severe physical reactions.

How to Stop Being a Hypochondriac

Somatization Disorder: A psychiatric condition marked by multiple medically unexplained physical or somatic symptoms. This disorder causes physical problems in at least four parts or functions of the body. The physical problems usually include, but are not limited to: burning sensations, pains that migrate from place to place, strange feelings and tastes on the tongue, tingling, and tremors. None of these symptoms are medical problems or have to do with drugs. This makes it very dangerous because patients often take many different medications and prescriptions that are harmful to the body. The symptoms are real to them, not fake.

Conversion Disorder: Characterized by a sudden loss of neurological function, usually in the presence of a severe stressor. It usually has physical symptoms that are similar to a neurological disorder, however no neurological disorder is actually present. The term 'conversion' comes from Freud's theory that emotional stress is converted into a physical symptom in this disorder. Conversion disorder was formerly known as a type of hysteria. To diagnose conversion disorder, one must make sure that the symptoms are not the result of a neurological disorder or feigning (intentionally produced or faked). The symptoms are real physical symptoms from an emotional source. Additionally, the symptoms will not go away once one acknowledges that they are purely psychological. Conversion disorder is classified as a somatoform disorder because the symptoms are unexplained through any physical illness or substance abuse. Examples of symptoms include: loss of voluntary motor/sensory function (inability to walk, sudden blindness), pseudo-seizure, partial paralysis, fainting, and becoming mute. Conversion disorder has a relatively unknown prevelance because of its close resemblance to a neurological disorder.
Example from Band of Brothers:

Causes: Occurs because of emotional distress or psychological problems. The phenomenon that these emotional stresses are converted into physical symptoms defines this disorder. Sometimes the emotional stress can occur years before any physical symptom develops.
Sources: wikipedia, Gale Student Resource Center,

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: A disorder in which the affected person is excessively concerned about and preoccupied with a perceived defect in his or her appearance. The flaws that a person suffering from body dysmorphia believe they have are not always real; in many occasions, the flaw is imagined to be there. If there is an actual flaw, then it tends to be something minor that normally would not bother someone. People who have this disorder go through cosmetic procedures such as plastic surgery in order to fix their problems. Even after surgery, most people are not satisfied and continue to obsess. People who have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) may constantly look in the mirror, pick at their skin, and compare themselves to others. Treatments for this disease include either medication or cognitive behavioral theropy. Just like many other mental illnesses, body dysmorphia can be hard to overcome.

body dysmorphia video link

  • Brain chemical differences- involving neurotransmitters
  • Structural brain differences- some areas of the brain may not be developed properly
  • Genes- Some evidence shows that it is common in families, meaning it can get passed down through generations
  • Environment- Negative experiences, and culture could have an effect on a person

Pain Disorder: A patient experiences chronic pain in one or more areas. This is thought to be caused by psychological stress. It tends to be more common among women than it is with men.

Causes: Unconscious conflicts are converted into physical pain.

Diagnostic criteria for Pain Disorder

A. Pain in one or more anatomical sites is the predominant focus of the clinical presentation and is of sufficient severity to warrant clinical attention.
B. The pain causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
C. Psychological factors are judged to have an important role in the onset, severity, exacerbation, or maintenance of the pain.
D. The symptom or deficit is not intentionally produced or feigned (as in Factitious Disorder or Malingering).
E. The pain is not better accounted for by a Mood, Anxiety, or Psychotic Disorder and does not meet criteria for Dyspareunia.
Code as follows:
307.80 Pain Disorder Associated With Psychological Factors: psychological factors are judged to have the major role in the onset, severity, exacerbation, or maintenance of the pain. (If a general medical condition is present, it does not have a major role in the onset, severity, exacerbation, or maintenance of the pain.) This type of Pain Disorder is not diagnosed if criteria are also met for Somatization Disorder.
Specify if:
  • Acute: duration of less than 6 months
  • Chronic: duration of 6 months or longer

307.89 Pain Disorder Associated With Both Psychological Factors and a General Medical Condition: both psychological factors and a general medical condition are judged to have important roles in the onset, severity, exacerbation, or maintenance of the pain. The associated general medical condition or anatomical site of the pain (see below) is coded on Axis III.
Specify if:
  • Acute: duration of less than 6 months
  • Chronic: duration of 6 months or longer
  • Note: The following is not considered to be a mental disorder and is included here to facilitate differential diagnosis.

Pain Disorder Associated With a General Medical Condition: a general medical condition has a major role in the onset, severity, exacerbation, or maintenance of the pain. (If psychological factors are present, they are not judged to have a major role in the onset, severity, exacerbation, or maintenance of the pain.) The diagnostic code for the pain is selected based on the associated general medical condition if one has been established or on the anatomical location of the pain if the underlying general medical condition is not yet clearly established--for example, low back (724.2), sciatic (724.3), pelvic (625.9), headache (784.0), facial (784.0), chest (786.50), joint (719.4), bone (733.90), abdominal (789.0), breast (611.71), renal (788.0), ear (388.70), eye (379.91), throat (784.1), tooth (525.9), and urinary (788.0).