Somatoform Disorder

By | June 10, 2022

A somatoform disorder represents a complex of symptoms that cannot be explained sufficiently or at all by organic causes. These are functional complaints that are related to psychological stress and stress on the part of the patient. Somatoform disorders are very common and in most cases are transient.

What is a somatoform disorder?

A somatoform disorder is a physical complaint for which no organic causes can be found. All organs can be affected by functional disorders caused by dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system. If, after extensive examination of the patient, no organic changes are found, the diagnosis “somatotropic disorder” must be made.¬†For hematocolpos explanations, please visit

Most people (over 80 percent) suffer at least temporarily from somatotropic disorders in the course of their lives. This condition usually only lasts for a short time and is usually linked to extraordinary life situations. In 5 to 20 percent of all cases, however, the symptoms become chronic.

Such symptoms as exhaustion, tiredness, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular problems or sexual problems are often observed. In order to make a diagnosis, however, it is necessary that all other possible causes of the symptoms are ruled out in order to be able to offer the patient psychotherapeutic treatment.


The causes of somatoform disorders are diverse. They result from the life situation of the patient in question. The interaction of psychological, social and biological factors is assumed to be the trigger. There may also be a genetic basis. In most cases, it is a matter of psychosocial reasons that lead to characteristic symptoms.

One cause can be long-lasting negative stress, which causes long-term functional disorders of certain organs. Too much attention to harmless symptoms coupled with the fear that it could be something worse often leads to significant symptoms without any organic causes being recognizable. Mental processes and conflicts associated with the emotions of anger, annoyance, fear or dissatisfaction often manifest themselves as physical symptoms. Traumatic experiences in early childhood often play a role here.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The somatoform disorders are expressed in many different symptoms. Breathing difficulties, globus sensation or shortness of breath often occur. A feeling of tightness, stitches, a feeling of pressure or a racing heart can occur in the chest. Furthermore, many patients suffer from digestive problems such as nausea, stomach pain, upper abdominal pain, feeling of fullness, flatulence, diarrhea or constipation.

Women can also experience gynecological problems. Frequent urination and pain disorders are also observed. Overall, the somatoform disorders are divided into somatization disorders, hypochondriacal disorders and somatoform autonomic dysfunctions. The somatization disorders include many changing physical symptoms that last for at least two years and cannot be explained by organic causes.

These include pain, digestive problems, neurological symptoms and sexual disorders. The clinical picture of hypochondria is characterized by the fact that the person concerned is convinced that they are suffering from a serious illness and cannot be convinced otherwise. The affected patients observe themselves continuously and greatly value harmless symptoms.

If no physical causes are found, the doctor is changed. The somatotropic autonomic dysfunctions are symptoms in organs that are supplied directly by the autonomic nervous system. Cardiac neuroses, stomach problems, hyperventilation, frequent urination or an irritable bowel are often observed here. Here, too, organic causes cannot be found.

Diagnosis & course of disease

In order to diagnose a somatoform disorder, it is very important to rule out an organic cause for the symptoms without any doubt. In addition to the usual laboratory tests, this also includes imaging procedures. On the other hand, too intensive diagnostics would be fatal if a somatoform disorder is already suspected.

The patient would concentrate even more on finding an organic cause and be even more closed to a psychotherapeutic work-up of his problems. Of course, the diagnosis must also be differentiated from other mental illnesses such as depression.

However, when making the diagnosis, it should also be noted that the somatoform disorder is often associated with such mental disorders as addictions, anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive -compulsive disorders and personality disorders. An important criterion for a somatoform autonomic disorder is the presence of at least six symptoms from two organ groups that are not organic and have been present for at least two years.


In the case of somatoform autonomic dysfunction, the major challenge for the doctor and patient is to distinguish between psychosomatic and physical causes of the symptoms. Difficulties arise not only with the initial diagnosis. Various complications are possible if an additional physical illness is not recognized in time. In addition, it is conceivable that an actual worsening of an existing physical dysfunction is misinterpreted as psychosomatic.

Some people suffering from a somatoform autonomic dysfunction experience complaints that are related to a specific organ. An example of this is cardiac neurosis. A patient with cardiac neurosis can not only develop actual heart problems, but also suffer from another organ disorder. Conversely, a person suffering from physical cardiac ailments may additionally struggle with a somatoform autonomic dysfunction related to the heart or other autonomic functions.

Thorough examinations are therefore necessary to rule out physical complications. For the treatment of the somatoform autonomic dysfunction, however, this means a dilemma: the medical examinations can (and must) rule out physical causes for the symptoms – but at the same time these examinations can increase the mental illness.

In addition, it is possible for medical examinations and treatments to cause direct harm or for the physically healthy patient to become infected with a pathogen via other patients. Possible complications of the somatoform autonomic dysfunction also include psychological complaints such as depression and anxiety.

When should you go to the doctor?

With this disease, the patient needs treatment. This can lead to serious symptoms and complications, which in the worst case can also reduce the life expectancy of the person concerned. To prevent further symptoms, a doctor should be consulted. Only in very rare cases does this disorder heal itself. A doctor should be consulted if the person concerned suffers from severe digestive problems. There is severe pain in the stomach or severe nausea.

Severe pain in the upper abdomen or a permanent feeling of fullness can also indicate the disease and must be examined by a doctor. In many cases, constipation also occurs. Furthermore, psychological upsets or other psychological complaints can indicate the disease.

In the case of this disease, a general practitioner or an internist can be consulted in the first place. However, further treatment depends heavily on the exact causes and the exact severity of the disorder. As a rule, the disease does not lead to a reduced life expectancy for those affected.

Treatment & Therapy

The therapy of a somatoform disorder is often very difficult. The prerequisite is the development of a relationship of trust between patient and doctor. However, this is often not the case because the patient is primarily looking for an organic cause for his symptoms. This leads to constant changes of doctor in the hope that the diagnosis, sometimes made by the patient himself, will one day be confirmed.

However, the doctor must be able to plausibly inform the patient about the disease in order to be able to follow up with successful psychotherapy. The patient must be motivated to work on his problems based on this knowledge.


Prevention of a generalized and chronic form of the somatoform disorder begins in early childhood. Behavioral structures are learned from the parents and adopted to deal with their own problems later in life. You can also learn how to deal with physical symptoms that always occur.

If physical complaints evoke attention from other people that would otherwise not take place, the growing person learns a wrong coping strategy for his life problems. Therefore, a positive and life-oriented upbringing can contribute a lot to human health.


Somatoform disorders affect different areas of the body, such as the female abdomen or the cardiovascular system. The appropriate form of follow-up care for a somatoform disorder therefore depends on the patient’s symptoms. The individual condition of the person concerned must also be taken into account in the question of appropriate aftercare.

However, follow-up care is always advisable in order to reconcile physical and mental health. As part of the follow-up care, the patient must become aware of the (both positive and negative) interactions between the physical and the mental. In addition, the prevention of a relapse and the long-term stabilization of the affected person are goals of aftercare treatment.

This is especially true when the patient has previously been treated in a somatoform disease clinic and is expected to return to their familiar environment. It makes sense to give the person concerned the address of a local family doctor or psychologist. The patient can contact this contact point if an acute crisis situation arises after the treatment has been completed and an intervention is required. The person concerned should be urged to consult a specialist in an emergency, since the risk of a deterioration in the condition or a relapse in such a situation is very high.

You can do that yourself

If, despite numerous examinations, existing health impairments cannot be clarified, the person concerned should remain calm. If it has been proven that there is no organic disorder, emotional factors must be given greater consideration. Further changes of doctor are often not recommended.

An unhappy lifestyle, reduced well-being or unfulfilled desires of various kinds can lead to health problems. If goals in life have not been achieved or if one’s own life does not develop according to the plans or specifications that have been worked out, this should be examined in more detail. Depending on the personality, these topics can be self-critically questioned and changed.

However, it is advisable to seek therapeutic help. It has proven useful for a large number of those affected when a neutral person can give an additional impetus for working through cognitive patterns. Stressors of everyday life should always be reduced. In addition, everyday processes must be optimized and adapted to the requirements of the organism.

In many cases, improvements can be achieved with a healthy and balanced diet. In addition, social contacts should be established and maintained. Sufficient leisure activities are also important so that a corresponding balance to everyday life can be achieved. Cognitive training and relaxation techniques have proven effective for many sufferers. They help to alleviate existing complaints and promote well-being.

Somatoform Disorder