Individuals with somatic symptom disorder are preoccupied with their physical symptoms, particularly how serious they may be.
For these individuals, health concerns are often the main and sometimes all-consuming focus in life.
The physical symptoms usually begin before age thirty (30), sometimes during childhood.
Most individuals have many symptoms, but some have only one severe symptom, typically pain. Symptoms may be specific (such as pain in the abdomen) or vague (such as fatigue). Any part of the body may be the focus of concern.
Individuals with somatic symptom disorder worry excessively about the symptoms and their possible catastrophic consequences. Their worry is out of proportion to the symptoms.
Individuals may interpret normal sensations or discomfort, such as a grumbling stomach, to a physical disorder. They tend to think the worst about any symptoms they experience. The symptoms themselves or excessive worry about them is distressing or disrupts all aspects of daily life.
Some individuals become depressed.
Individuals may become dependent on others, demanding help and emotional support and becoming angry when they feel their needs are not being met.
They may also threaten or attempt suicide.
When their medical professional tries to reassure them, they often think that the doctor is not taking their symptoms seriously. Often dissatisfied with their medical care, they typically go from one medical professional to another or seek treatment from several medical professionals at the same time.
Many do not respond to medical treatment, which may even cause the symptoms to worsen. Some seem unusually sensitive to the side effects of drugs.
The intensity and persistence of symptoms may reflect a strong desire to be cared for. Symptoms may help people avoid responsibilities but may also prevent them from enjoying activities and act as punishment, suggesting that they may have underlying feelings of unworthiness and guilt.
Symptoms may lessen or worsen, but symptoms persist and are rarely completely relieved for any length of time.