Most mental health disorders are characterized by mental symptoms Personality and Behavior Changes Healthy people differ significantly in their overall personality, mood, and behavior. Each person also varies from day to day, depending on the circumstances. However, a sudden, major change... read more . That is, people have unusual or disturbing thoughts, moods, and/or behaviors. However, in somatic symptom disorders, mental factors are expressed as physical symptoms—a process called somatization—and the person's main concern is with physical (somatic—from soma, the Greek word for body) symptoms, such as pain, weakness, fatigue, nausea, or other bodily sensations. The person may or may not have a medical disorder that causes or contributes to the symptoms. However, when a medical disorder is present, a person with somatic symptom or a related disorder responds to it excessively.
Everyone reacts on an emotional level when they have physical symptoms. However, people with a somatic symptom disorder have exceptionally intense thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in response to their symptoms. To distinguish a disorder from a normal reaction to feeling ill, the responses must be intense enough to cause significant distress to the person (and sometimes to others) and/or make it difficult for the person to function in daily life.
The different responses people have define the specific disorder they have, as in the following:
In factitious disorder Factitious Disorder Imposed on Self Factitious disorder is pretending to have or producing physical or psychologic symptoms for no apparent external reason. The cause is unknown, but stress and a severe personality disorder may... read more , people pretend to have symptoms for no apparent external reason (such as to get time off from work).
In functional neurological symptom disorder Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder In functional neurological symptom disorder, physical symptoms that resemble those of a nervous system (neurologic) disorder develop. The symptoms can follow mental factors such as conflicts... read more (formerly known as conversion disorder), physical symptoms that resemble those of a nervous system disorder develop.
In illness anxiety disorder Illness Anxiety Disorder Illness anxiety disorder is preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious disorder. People are so worried that they are or might become ill that they become very distressed and have difficulty... read more (previously known as hypochondria or hypochondriasis), people are excessively preoccupied and worried about the possibility of having or getting a serious illness.
Sometimes attitudes or behaviors can have a negative effect on a medical disorder that a person has—a disorder called psychological factors affecting other medical conditions Psychological Factors Affecting Other Medical Conditions Psychological factors affecting other medical conditions is diagnosed when attitudes or behaviors have a negative effect on a medical disorder that the person has. (See also Overview of Somatic... read more .
In somatic symptom disorder Somatic Symptom Disorder Somatic symptom disorder is characterized by one or more chronic physical symptoms accompanied by significant and out-of-proportion levels of distress, worries, and difficulty in daily functioning... read more , people's symptoms concern and preoccupy them, worry them constantly, and/or drive them to see doctors very frequently.
Because people with these disorders think they have physical symptoms, they tend to go to a doctor rather than to a mental health care practitioner.
Somatic symptom or related disorders Overview of Mental Health Disorders Children and Adolescents Several important mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders, often start during childhood and adolescence. Some disorders, such as autism, start only... read more may also occur in children.
Treatment varies according to which disorder a person has but usually involves psychotherapy.