Somatic symptom disorder (SSD formerly known as “somatization disorder” or “somatoform disorder”) is a form of mental illness that causes one or more bodily symptoms, including pain.
The symptoms may or may not be traceable to a physical cause including general medical conditions, other mental illnesses, or substance abuse. But regardless, they cause excessive and disproportionate levels of distress.
The symptoms can involve one or more different organs and body systems, such as:
- Neurologic problems
- Gastrointestinal complaints
- Sexual symptoms
Many people who have SSD will also have an anxiety disorder.
People with SSD are not faking their symptoms. The distress they experience from pain and other problems they experience are real, regardless of whether or not a physical explanation can be found. And the distress from symptoms significantly affects daily functioning.
Doctors need to perform many tests to rule out other possible causes before diagnosing SSD.
The diagnosis of SSD can create a lot of stress and frustration for patients. They may feel unsatisfied if there’s no better physical explanation for their symptoms or if they are told their level of distress about a physical illness is excessive. Stress often leads patients to become more worried about their health, and this creates a vicious cycle that can persist for years.