Somatic Symptom Disorder
(SSD; Somatization Disorder; SD; Briquet Syndrome)
Somatic symptom disorder (SSD) is mental health problem. A person with SSD has intense worry about physical symptoms. The symptoms may or may not be due to a health problem.
SSD may last a short time or it may come and go over time. It may also be a lifelong problem. Treatment can help manage it.
The exact cause of SSD is not known. It may be linked to how the brain works. It is thought to be caused by mental or emotional problems.
SSD is more common in females. Things that may raise the risk of SSD are:
- Genetic factors
- Neglect or sexual abuse
- Past chronic illnesses
- Poor coping skills
- Having other mental health problems, such as panic disorder
SSD tends to start in the early adult years. People with SSD suffer with these problems for years. SSD often leads to testing and treatment that is not needed. This may include surgery and medicines.
The main symptom is an excess worry about one's health. This may cause a person to go to the doctor a lot.
Problems are different from person to person. General ones are:
- Pain (common)
- Shortness of breath
An emotional event may trigger physical symptoms, sometimes through the peripheral nerves (yellow).
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The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical and mental health exam may be done.
There are no specific tests for SSD. Diagnosis is based on information gathered by a person's doctor.
The goal is to help a person control what they feel. It will also help with work and social life. The doctor will help the person find the best way to do this.
Treatment of SSD may include:
- Mental health therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)—to look at and change unhelpful thoughts
- Medicines to ease symptoms
There are no known guidelines to prevent SSD.
- Croicu C, Chwastiak L, et al. Approach to the patient with multiple somatic symptoms. Med Clin North Am. 2014 Sep;98(5):1079-1095.
- Kurlansik SL. Maffei MS. Somatic symptom disorder. Am Fam Physician. 2016;93(1):49-54.
- Somatic symptom disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/somatic-symptom-disorder.
- Somatic symptom disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/somatic-symptom-and-related-disorders/somatic-symptom-disorder.
- Adrian Preda, MD
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