Somatoform disorder

We take all patients seriously

A somatoform disorder causes physical symptoms, even though no clear organic cause can be found. Many sufferers are told that there is "nothing wrong with them". They feel misunderstood, and go from one doctor to another. The result is desperation and hopelessness, and also often depression.

At Schoen Clinic, we specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of somatoform disorders. This also includes a comprehensive review of the patient's history of the disorder in an attempt to uncover any events that may have contributed to it.

Causes & symptoms

What are somatoform disorders?

A somatoform disorder is said to exist when physical symptoms occur repeatedly, persist over a long period of time and when no adequately explanatory organic findings can be made despite detailed diagnostic tests.

There can also be misunderstandings between the doctor and the patient: the patient has the impression that the doctor does not want to help them, and the doctor thinks that the patient does not want to be helped. The fact is that patients with such disorders suffer greatly, and they really do "have something wrong with them".

Sub-groups of somatoform disorder:

  • Somatisation disorder
    Typical of this disorder is the simultaneous manifestation of symptoms in different parts of the body (for example pain in multiple body parts, gastro-intestinal problems, menstruation problems, loss of libido, impotence problems, dizziness, a feeling of a blockage in the throat, muscle weakness). According to the ICD-10 system, the duration is specified as 2 years.
  • Undifferentiated somatoform disorder
    This disorder is characterised by one or more physical symptoms that last for at least six months and which produce significant limitations in various aspects of life.
  • Persistent somatoform pain disorder
    In this case, chronic pain lasting at least six months is typical, the origin of which is not clear. Excessive focus on the pain and significant levels of suffering are also characteristic.
  • Hypochondriac disorder
    This disorder is less about physical symptoms, but more about a persistent anxiety or belief that the patient has a serious illness.

Somatoform disorder: Causes of its development

The causes of somatoform disorders are many and individual. The most common are:

  • A style of upbringing in which children are not allowed to express feelings ("A brave soldier doesn't feel pain...")
  • A style of upbringing in which violence is prevalent, to which children respond with physical symptoms instead of fear
  • A style of upbringing in which the child receives attention only if they have physical symptoms
  • Traumatic experiences during childhood and adolescence that make a "splitting" of emotions necessary in order to be able to live as normal a life as possible
  • Traumatic experiences in adulthood
With some patients, increased sensitivity to pain can also be associated with changes in the way pain is processed in the central nervous system.

Symptoms: Symptoms of somatoform disorders

Symptoms in various, changing organ systems, such as the gastro-intestinal tract, urogenital tract, muscles, cardiovascular system and sensory organs, are characteristic. Sexual dysfunctions can also occur. Sometimes, a specific organ or system may be affected over a prolonged period of time, such as the bowel in irritable bowel syndrome or the inner ear in cases of dizziness. Many patients have undertaken a veritable odyssey of doctors' visits in their quest to find an explanation for their symptoms. Often, they feel misunderstood because they have been told that they're healthy.


Diagnosis: How we diagnose somatoform disorder

A diagnosis of somatoform disorder is the first step towards treatment. This begins with a careful documentation of your past medical history. To do this, our consultants take another look at all of your previous results. If there are any uncertainties or if specific investigations are needed, these will be organised in close consultation with you.