Somatization disorder. One of medicine's blind spots

JAMA. 1985 Dec 6;254(21):3075-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.254.21.3075.


Patients with somatization disorders are frequently unrecognized and misdiagnosed. The diagnosis depends on recognizing a long-standing pattern of seeking medical intervention for vague, multisystemic symptoms, often without clear physical cause. These patients use symptoms as a way to communicate, express emotion, and be taken care of. Instead of recognizing the disorder and exploring psychosocial contributors to illness, nonpsychiatric physicians tend to repeatedly pursue organic possibilities through multiple tests, procedures, medications, and operations. In patients with somatization disorders, the dollar costs of this strategy are only exceeded by its potential for iatrogenic harm. More productive treatment strategies are presented, emphasizing the need for a long-term relationship with a primary care provider who will treat the patient and his symptoms seriously and respectfully but who is not compelled to invasively evaluate all symptoms.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Conversion Disorder / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypochondriasis / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Somatoform Disorders* / classification
  • Somatoform Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Somatoform Disorders* / psychology
  • Somatoform Disorders* / therapy