Somatization Disorders? What are they? Do you or know someone who has one? There are people who get up everyday and all day long, they begin to imagine the worse. They feel that they have some dreaded neurological disease. Maybe it is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease named after the famed Yankee baseball star? Perhaps it is Parkinson’s Disease? Could be Multiple Sclerosis? Somaticizers are those who feel that they have the symptoms of such diseases that run through their minds. They have tingling in their legs. They think they are experiencing foot drop when they walk. But it is not just neurological diseases. But all diseases. If they have heartburn, they may think that they are having a heart attack. If they have a cough, they think that they may have some sort of respiratory disorder. And this will go on and on. Those that suffer from somatization disorders feel that they have to engage in extensive internet searching to see if their symptoms match up with what they find online. This searching, of itself, can turn into a futile effort, when there is so much information that is inaccurate and cannot be trusted. If they are not searching and reading, then they are rushing to doctors offices and emergency rooms. They plead with their physician to run tests that may not only be expensive but add further detriment to their health and pinpoint other problems. So what can be done to help the patient with this type of mentally debilitating disorder?
If you or a loved one is suffering from a somatization disorder, the worse thing that you can say to this person, is that “it is all in your head”. That may very well be true but it is an insensitive approach and will not help that individual. Patients with this illness need to discuss their specific situation with their physician. While it is always important to check things out that may or may not exist, it is equally important to assess these findings in themselves. If your doctor is a family medicine or internal medicine specialist, he or she may want to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication, as well as, refer you to a psychiatrist who specializes in psychosomatic medicine. One of the best approaches that is used is CBT-which stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
CBT follows the premise that if patients can talk about their feelings and emotions, with respect to their phobias, for example, with a trained therapist, they can get a handle on what they can transcend or manage their fears. CBT is a short-term therapy but has proven to be very effective. Coupled with the right anti-anxiety medication such as Zoloft, can be very effective. If you or a loved one is suffering from a somatization disorder, do not wait and talk to your physician. Also take the time to get the tests and procedures, if your physician feels that they necessary to provide you with peace of mind and be free of unwanted worry. You owe it to yourself.
Briquet’s Syndrome-a synonym or alternate name for somatization disorder.
DSM-Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-standard classification system for psychological and neurological diseases and disorders.