Somatization Disorder is a psychiatric disorder characterized by persistent complaints of several physical symptoms that have no identifiable physical origin. Their symptoms cannot be related to any medical condition either. It is also known as Briquet's disorder or hysteria. Somatization Disorder is uncommon, with just 0.1% of the general population estimated to be affected by it.
This disorder is characterized by a history of multiple, unexplained medical problems, or physical complaints beginning before the age of 30. Common symptoms include chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal distress, and problems involving the genitals or urinary tract. It can be diagnosed with the help of a physical examination of the specified areas, which can be combined with a thorough clinical evaluation of the patient's manifested symptoms with a psychological test, to rule out any other related disorders.
Somatization disorder patients can benefit from regular psychotherapy done by a mental health worker or a psychiatrist. This may be done by having them identify ways to express their emotions. Supportive primary care physicians can help these individuals by reassuring them that their complaints are being understood. However, individuals with somatization disorder tend to be resistant to psychological explanations of their problems. Consequently, they may be resistant to psychological interventions.
The effectiveness of drug treatment alone in treating somatization disorder is unknown. However, coexisting mental disorders should be treated with drugs, if indicated.
Antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy have been shown to help treat the disorder. Antidepressant medications are highly effective in treating depression caused by this disorder. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac®, Paxil®, Luvox®, Celexa®, Zoloft®, and Lexapro®; tricyclic antidepressants such as Elavil®, Anafranil®, Norpramin®, Sinequan®, Tofranil®, Pamelor®, Vivactil®, and Surmontil; monoamine oxidase inhibitors such as Nardil®, Parnate®, and Eldepryl®; and newer "atypical" antidepressants like Wellbutrin®, Effexor®, Remeron®, Serzone®, Cymbalta®, etc. have been used in treating somatization disorder. In general, the effectiveness of antidepressants increases if there is evidence of comorbid depression or anxiety. However, medication is probably less effective than psychological approaches.
Some patients with somatization disorder are prescribed medication that later proves harmful. It is therefore imperative that the rationale for a specific medication course is discussed with the patient well in advance.
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