Psychosomatic Disorder

What are psychosomatic disorders?

Psychosomatic disorders are a condition in which physical symptoms are aggravated by mental factors.

Some physical conditions can be aggravated by mental factors, such as stress and anxiety. A person’s mental state can cause the physical condition to improve or deteriorate at any given time. Many diseases and conditions can be influenced by a patient’s mental state; however, some conditions are more sensitive than others to a person’s mental state.

For example, skin rashes and skin conditions, including psoriasis and eczema, can worsen if the person feels stressed or anxious; hypertension is a common psychosomatic condition, in which stress or anxiety increases blood pressure; heart disease sufferers and patients with type 2 diabetes can also be affected by this type of disorder.

Psychosomatic disorders often have negative effects on the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system and the cardiovascular system. All can have negative effects on a person’s quality of life, compromising normal performance.

What categories exist within psychosomatic disorders?

Psychosomatic disorders generally fall into three different categories.

  • Patients suffering from a physical condition and a mental condition. The conditions may be unrelated, but treatment for each condition is complicated by the presence of the other.
  • Patients with a physical condition that causes depression or anxiety. An example of this might be a patient with a long-term condition, such as a tumor, who feels depressed because of the prognosis.
  • Patients with somatoform disorders, in which physical symptoms are caused by a mental illness. There are different types of somatoform disorders, including hypochondriasis, in which a small symptom is magnified in the person’s mind, leading to concern about being affected by an even more serious condition.
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Symptoms of psychosomatic disorders

Somatization disorders occur when a patient is affected by headache and diarrhea without any medical condition underlying the symptoms.

Patients who experience severe pain in the absence of a known cause, such as migraines, back pain and stress headaches, are considered to have a pain disorder.

Body dysmorphism is a psychosomatic disorder in which the patient feels unhappy or stressed because of their outward appearance and can lead to dangerous physical conditions such as anorexia.

Treatments for psychosomatic disorders

If a patient is believed to have a psychosomatic disorder, they will often be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to treat these conditions.

The goal of the therapy is to provide the patient with new skills that allow them to cope with the symptoms and gain a deeper understanding of the condition.