Objective: The aim of this study is to determine, within the context of primary care, the frequency of the various ways in which depression is presented with respect to somatic symptoms and to compare depressed patients who present their distress somatically with those with psychological complaints.
Method: In the two-phase cross-sectional study, first, we screened 906 consecutive patients, and second, we interviewed in detail 306 selected patients.
Results: The prevalence of depression was 16.8% (CI 95%: 13.4-20.2). There were 59 cases with psychological presentation, 45 somatizers and 16 had organic disorders with depressive comorbidity. Somatizers had lower level of education, and somatized depression was less serious and caused less repercussion. Detection, antidepressive treatment and psychiatric care were lower for somatizers than for psychologizers.
Conclusions: Somatization is a frequent way to present depression in primary care. For somatizers, depression is less severe and is associated with less repercussion. Somatization is associated with the under-detection of the underlying psychiatric process.