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The most common characteristic of the somatoform disorder is the appearance of physical symptoms or complaints of such without any organic basis. Such dysfunctional symptoms tend to range from a specialized sensory or motor diability to hypersensitivity to pain. Four major somatoform disorders exist: conversion disorder (also known as hysteria), hypochondriasis, somatization disorder, and somatoform pain disorder.


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Conversion Disorder

Primary symptom is often a lack or change in physical functioning. The diseased often react with an attitude of indifference, showing an amazing lack of concern. However, the primary symptoms which may include such serious ailments as blindness, amnesia and paralysis, are used as a defense mechanism by the person to escape from a stressful situation. In addition, there may be an awareness of the gains possible through the use of the symptom, which may prolong the symptom. Symptoms are grouped as follows:

Sensory Symptoms: These include anesthesia, excessive sensitivity to strong simulation (hyperanesthesia), loss of sense of pain (analgesia), and unusual symptoms such as tingling or crawling sensations.
Motor Symptoms: In motor symptoms, any of the body's muscle groups may be involved: arms, legs, vocal chords. Included are tremors, tics (involuntary twitches), and disorganized mobility or paralysis.
Visceral Symptoms: Examples are trouble swallowing, frequent belching, spells of coughing or vomiting, all carried to an uncommon extreme. In both sensory and motor symptoms, the areas affected may not correspond at all to the nerve distribution in the area."


Unlike conversion disorder where an individual perceives a functional disorder and simply use it to escape from uncomfortable situations, hypochondriacs have no real illness, but is overly obsessed over normal bodily functions. They read into the sensations of these normal bodily functions the presence of a feared disease. Symptoms:

The afflicted magnifies small irregularities in bodily functions, real or imagined, and then express concerns over their general health. Focus may lie on a changing area of the bodily system or be specific, such as a certain believed lung condition. Usually, the individual seeks opinions of many physicians and take pleasure in criticizing there methodology when they are diagnosed as perfectly healthy. Still, these individuals tend to lead a fairly normal life with some difficulty in the area of interpersonal relationships. Rarely, an afflicted person becomes a lifelong invalid and cease most independent activity, relying on others to care for their needs.  

Somatization Disorder

A history of many physical complaints beginning before age 30 years that occur over a period of several years and result in treatment being sought or significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Pain Disorder

Pain in one or more anatomical sites is the predominant focus of the clinical presentation and is of sufficient severity to warrant clinical attention.    The pain causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.



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