Somatization Disorder: Causes And Management


In the previous article, Somatization Disorders: Understanding Psychosomatic Illness, we examined the four types of somatization illnesses. In this article, the etiologic factors and overview of the management will be tackled.




Etiologic Factors

“Somatization disorder, characterized by a history of at least eight unexplained symptoms in four or more bodily systems, represents the extreme end of a continuum of somatoform severity.” –Richard J. Brown, Ph.D., Clin.Psy.D

Genetics and heredity play a crucial role in most mental illnesses. Research presented that ten to 20% of somatization disorders are common in families with a first-degree family member exhibiting the same condition. Also, children who are having complaints of functional abdominal discomfort, and changes in mood such as anxiety and depression, their mothers may have a history of chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome and somatoform disorder in their lifetime.

The role of neurotransmitters was also attributed to the causation process stating that its sustained release in conjunction with the neuroendocrine hormones, when faced with extremely stressful situations, can deplete some areas in the brain that enable adaptations and coping behaviors.

“Your environment, both your social and natural surroundings, can greatly impact how you feel.” Marjie L. Roddick, MA, NCC, LMHC said. Therefore, A violent family environment resulting in abusive behaviors, be it physical, verbal, or sexual, can lead to somatization symptoms in children. Traumatic experiences can shatter the mind’s capacity to cope effectively, and the only thing that it can do is to transfer the mental anguish into physical complaints.





This can be very frustrating as the condition tends to be more psychological rather than medical. Sometimes, the caregiver resounds annoyance and weariness on the constant complaints of bodily pain, concern for well-being, and even verbalizing imminent death.

In the beginning, the medical doctor will explore and investigate the source of the physical complaints. Remember that these symptoms are real to the persons no matter what explanations you give them that “it’s all in mind.” For a person with pain disorder, a referral to a specialty pain clinic is the best alternative. Introduction to non-pharmacologic and alternative treatments may contribute to the alleviation of pain symptoms.

Insight-oriented psychotherapy is recommended for persons with illness anxiety disorder. The aim of this therapy to help the person understand the cause and relationship of their feelings to the physical symptoms that they have every time they encounter stress. The person is encouraged not to undergo several medical tests that will only result in more tests if they are not satisfied with a reasonable result. They will also be instructed with positive coping mechanisms to divert attention away from their body functioning to some more constructive activities. Anxiolytic medications like Xanax and Valium are prescribed to control and manage the severe effects of stress, but should not be taken in the long run because of its addictive tendencies.

“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” says Catherine Cleveland M.S., LMHC-P. These persons need emotional support but never say that their symptoms are unreal and controllable. This is a futile attempt to take knowing that for them their symptoms are real as a result of their emotional distress. Acknowledge the manifestation only to the point that you are aware of their difficulties. If the person continues to present a new complaint, this should be corrected instantly. Encourage to keep a journal of situations, events of stresses and the occurrence of symptoms and utilize this information to identify the relationship between anxiety and physical complaints. Introduce the person to several activities that will divert his/her attention from the stressful situation.


Gambling Addiction: Slowly Rotting Your Life Away


As intelligent human beings, we are in control of our lives. Having the capacity and ability to decide for ourselves, we have our way of catharsis in dealing with the demands of life. When we feel like life is already consuming us, diversion activities become our go-to hideaway. Giving oneself a break is not bad at all. It helps in maintaining a balanced life. In modern times, this can be achieved by taking a vacation, buying new clothes, a car or an expensive phone, and going out with your friends occasionally can give you a pleasurable feeling and these can even inspire you more to go on with life.

“Addiction is a non-medical term that refers to a wide range of mental disorders called Substance Use Disorders. There are a variety of different types of Substance Use Disorders, including Alcohol Use Disorder, Stimulant Use Disorder, and Cannabis Use Disorder, just to name a few.” –Hailey Shafir, LPCS, LCAS, CCS-I

Continue reading Gambling Addiction: Slowly Rotting Your Life Away

Unconventional Treatments In Mental Health Care


Despite numerous research and studies were done to understand the etiology and cure of mental health further, there are still unanswered questions about how the mind functions. Mental illnesses are their all-time high. The increase in statistics may be attributed to the decreasing level of stigma associated with having a psychological disorder rather than the actual numbers. More and more people are seeking help and submitting themselves to the therapy session to manage their emotions or handle the stresses of everyday life which can further aggravate the person’s problem. People are familiar with the pharmacological approach and the importance of behavioral and talk therapy, but beyond this traditional accepted Western psychiatric management, unconventional and controversial procedures are often dealt with caution and at times, apprehension.  There are alternative therapies available with a somewhat strange way of dealing with psychiatric disorders, but research and studies support its effectivity.

Continue reading Unconventional Treatments In Mental Health Care

Somatization Disorders: Understanding Psychosomatic Illness




James, 14 years old, was recently admitted for symptoms of sudden blindness. He was in the hospital for five days and underwent several diagnostic tests to determine the cause and extent of his loss of sight. On the third day, the doctors did not find any organic pathology from the tests wherein all returned with normal results. James was transferred to the adolescent psychiatric unit for further evaluation of conversion disorder. During the nursing assessment and interview, James demonstrated a matter-of-fact attitude when asked about his blindness experience. When the nurse interviewed the mother, she confided that James got reprimanded and hit by his father, told negative and other degrading words. This violent environment has been going on since James was five years old.


What is Somatization Disorder?

“Somatization disorder, characterized by a history of at least eight unexplained symptoms in four or more bodily systems, represents the extreme end of a continuum of somatoform severity.”  Richard J. Brown, Ph.D., Clin.Psy.D explains. As early as the 1800s, the idea of mind-body connection was well accepted in the causation of physical symptoms secondary to psychological conflicts. Experts believe that the mind is capable of transferring unwarranted feelings into physical manifestations when confronted with distress, anxiety and other forms of mental disturbances. This is where the word psychosomatic illnesses began.

Accurate enough, certain medical diseases are linked to stress and fatigue like cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and some gastrointestinal conditions. However, if the person continues to experience severe and traumatic situations coupled with the maladaptive coping mechanism, these symptoms will prevail and can worsen in time. Some individuals would be reporting several pain symptoms all at once, unexplained pain in the different parts of the body, and appears to be anxious and restless to know every symptom there is. Sigmund Freud theorized that these persons are converting their psychological problems into physical symptoms, and is now called somatization.




Types of Somatization Disorders

Somatic illnesses are seen in persons that have the following manifestations:

  • Physical symptoms that appear to be a significant medical illness, yet no organic basis as seen in diagnostic and laboratory tests.
  • Any stressful situations can almost trigger, aggravate, intensify, and maintains the symptoms.
  • Persons having these symptoms do not willfully cause them to happen, i.e., it’s beyond their conscious control.

Somatic symptom disorders are categorized into the following terms:

  1. Somatic Symptom Disorder. The condition is manifested as one or more physical complaints with no organic basis. Despite this assurance, the person is occupied with their current state and appears to be insignificant distress worrying about it.


  1. Conversion Disorder. In the case study presented in this article, James has a conversion disorder, and it’s being manifested as blindness. For an average individual to experience sudden illness, this can be an alarming situation. Nonetheless, those who have conversion disorder would display la belle indifference or lack of concern on the functional loss. The most common symptoms fall under sensory or motor deficits like loss of hearing and paralysis.




  1. Pain Disorder. For persons with this type of somatoform condition, their major presentation is a pain in several locations of the body. They are not quickly relieved by analgesics and are much affected by problems and stressful situations. “Just like our feelings give us information about our needs, so do our bodies through physiological feedback,” says Eliza Chamblin, LCSW.


  1. Hypochondriasis, also known as illness anxiety disorder, is a combination of disease conviction and disease phobia. The person believes and would argue that he has a severe medical condition and will soon perish if not attended. These individuals would go into “doctor shopping” business and will get as many medical evaluations or professional opinions until they are satisfied with what they are hearing. The problem, nonetheless, is they seem not to be happy with any of the medical views and health assurances that are provided for them; thus, the condition persists. That is the reason why Sal Raichbach, PsyD states that “Sadly, only a small percentage of people actively seek professional help for their mental health problems.”




What You Need To Know About ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, popularly known as ADHD, is one of the most complicated and hard-to-understand conditions in the world. In fact, up to this day, a lot of people are still skeptical about it. Thankfully, an extensive scientific study already proved that this mental disorder is real and that it’s extremely common for kids and adults.  But as previously mentioned, ADHD is a very complicated condition; this is the main reason why it can be easily misunderstood and is quite hard to diagnose.



Continue reading What You Need To Know About ADHD

Understanding Personality And The Disorders That May Arise


 As defined by the American Psychology Association, personality is the individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. With this, our character plays a crucial role in our existence, defines our relationships, and even sets the ideals of our survival, because it is through our personality that we find the definition of our totality as human beings.

Formation of Personality

One’s personality starts to develop while we are still in the womb. Some would debate on this theory, saying that it’s only a fetus with no feelings or emotions, and the behavior they represent are rather primitive to be acknowledged as a personality trait. Nevertheless, psychologists have pointed out that together with the physical development in the womb, the emotional and psychological development, that includes personality, is also in the formation process. Everything that the fetus feels and senses while in the womb are all compounded to what he/she will become in later life.

As unique individuals, we all have different kinds of personalities. Our parents have a significant contribution to how we form our personhood. Other from genetics, social relations, life experiences, and environment all influence the development of personality. With this, we can say that one’s character is not stagnant or finite. It changes as the person ages and encounters many life challenges. “Personality disorders disrupt your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, causing abnormal personality traits.” Mindia Gabichvadze, PsyD said.

Everything that we experience in life has similar emotions, feelings, and behaviors that we tend to express. Our personality sets the boundaries of our sanity; it is through the congruency of the senses, and emotions that we show according to the situation that we are into. It is through our personality that we get to express ourselves, that we had the opportunity to convey to others what we feel and think and to understand others as well. Our personality helps us survive the challenges that life may throw at us, if we have a stronghold of reality and a sound mind, then we can use our personality to our advantage. “A mental illness cannot be willed away or brushed aside with a change in attitude. Ignoring the problem doesn’t give it the slip either.” A reminder from Deborah Serani, PsyD

Judge Not, So Ye May Not Be Judged.


When we meet a person that is new to us, we readily know or try to understand what is their personality. Understanding one’s personality can be a challenge. It will take years and a longer duration of being acquainted with the person until one can indeed say that you know him/her. Despite this criterion, it is still not an assurance that you will honestly know and comprehend one’s personality traits.

When Life Gives You A Lemon, Make Lemonade.

In general, we are taught to accept any trials and tribulations with a positive attitude. However, when we can no longer deal with the many problems in life, there comes the point where our personality becomes shaken, and in a split-second, everything becomes different on how we respond to the stimulus around us. Some with a weak personality quickly suffer the consequences – goes into a mental breakdown, depression, panic attacks, mood disorders, up to the extent that they lose mental functions leading to schizophrenia. Simon Rego, PsyD also adds that “Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia do not present with a split personality, nor is it common for someone with the disorder to be violent.” Remember that.


The List of Personality Disorders.


DSM 5 has listed ten types of personality disorders and must follow certain requirements to obtain the diagnosis of personality disorder. Personality disorders are not directly caused by substance abuse or any effects of a medical condition, have been going on for a prolonged time and become consistent throughout, and are far from the normalcy of the person’s developmental stage or what is proper to certain socio-cultural practices. A psychiatrist or psychologist will give a series of tests to evaluate if the person has a personality disorder. The official diagnosis should come from a mental health professional and not through a self-test taken over online. Briefly, the list includes the following: (1) Paranoid PD, (2) Schizoid PD, (3) Schizotypal PD, (4) Antisocial PD, (5) Borderline PD, (6) Histrionic PD, (7) Narcissistic PD, (8) Avoidant PD, (9) Dependent PD, and (10)  Anankastic (obsessive-compulsive) PD.




Top 5 Common Mental Illnesses In Children



 Mental illnesses are not easily observed in children. Amidst the modernized gadgets in the world, there are still no high-tech devices or ultrasounds that can detect if mental illness is positively looming on an unborn child’s mentality.


Parents sometimes overlook the mental well-being of their children. Mental disorders can hit anyone and children are no exception. Scientists are still working on finding the exact cause for early prevention of these disorders, an example is that of autism.


But even then, parents should at least be knowledgeable of these mental illnesses to cope with their child’s specific needs and treatment. This article enumerates the top five mental disorders that children are commonly diagnosed with.


Anxiety Disorders

Perhaps, you have witnessed your child throwing tantrums and finding comfort from you every time you ask him or her to socialize (or even go to school). It may be an indication of an underlying anxiety disorder. “It’s the classic dynamic of anxiety: When we avoid the things we’re afraid of, our symptoms tend to increase, and in turn this drives the anxiety up and makes the thing we’re afraid of scarier.” explains Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist.


Anxiety disorders comprise a range of illnesses such as phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder and the generalized anxiety disorder. Typical symptoms are fearfulness and getting nervous a lot about the future.


Doctors usually prescribe antidepressant pills. They will also suggest a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as it is deemed the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders to date. “A common form of therapy for anxiety disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps individuals identify their triggers to anxiety and the connected thought patterns all for the purpose of creating new ways to think and respond in anxiety-inducing situations.” Karin Draper, LMFT said.



This illness is characterized by unusual behavior and strange feelings accompanied by strange thoughts. A common symptom in usually-energetic children is their unusual withdrawn behavior and sudden shyness from other people even their peers. Other symptoms include severe fearfulness, hallucinations, and mood swings.


Researchers believe that environmental factors and genetics contribute to this disorder. Doctors may prescribe antipsychotic drugs to manage hallucinations. They may also suggest treatment programs and hospitalization for your child.


Disruptive Behavior Disorders

Symptoms of this disorder include antisocial behavior such as theft and lying. Having sudden anger issues, defying of authority, putting the blameon others and showing a lot of temper tantrums can also tell if your child is developing this disorder.



Treatment for this illness may be done at home or at school. Parent training and family therapy are some ways to cure disruptive behavior under home intervention. On the other hand, tutoring and classroom management comprise the ways a school can help in treatment.


Bipolar Disorder

“Bipolar disorder is probably the main psychiatric disorder where medication is absolutely essential.” explains John Preston, PsyD. This disorder is characterized by the sudden shifting of mood and energy that affects the daily activities of a child. Others may call these extreme mood swings and is characterized by hyperactivity, extreme sadness, and irritability that may all occur at any time of the day. This behavior can affect a child’s socializing skills.


Causes of bipolar in children range from genetic factors (if a first-degree relative has a history of bipolar) and extreme stress (that can be brought about by a loved one’s death or a traumatic/stressful event). Aside from mood-stabilizing and antipsychotic drugs, psychotherapy helps in treating bipolar disorder.


Eating Disorder

This type of disorder is not exclusive to adolescents and adults only. Children are also at risk of having this illness. Whether they are eating very small or very large amount of food compared to the acceptable level, this should not be disregarded by parents.


Doctors suspect that social and biological factors may affect the likelihood of having this disorder. Furthermore, they add that depression, low self-esteem, and fear of being overweight may contribute to this illness. Counseling such as individual, group, or family therapy will help in curing this disorder.



Early detection of this illnesses even through simple observation can help prevent serious complications. Never take even the slightest hint of a symptom. However, don’t lose hope if your child is diagnosed with a mental ailment as there are a range of treatments available nowadays. After all, clear communication between the parents and doctors will aid in your child’s healing.




How To Prevent And Curb Mental Illnesses In Infants



Mental illnesses can haunt a person for life. Without professional help, even young children can be subjected to a myriad of mental illnesses. This can prevent them from forming meaningful relationships with peers. Mental illnesses can also lead a child to develop a negative view of themselves and of other people.


As a parent, you would want your child to have the best in life. Whether you’re still an expectant mother or a doting father to a toddler, here are some tips on how to prevent and cure mental illnesses from conception to infancy. Because “The relational aspect of our mental health has been strongly supported by attachment and infant mental health research. ” Megan Baker Welles, LCPC, LMFT explains.


Prevention Is Key

There are mental illnesses that can be detected even when babies are in the womb. Specialized tests can already identify abnormalities in the fetus. If you are expecting a child soon, do your due diligence by taking these tests. In so doing, you will be able to anticipate possible problems and address them early on.


However, if you are just planning to have a baby, there are several ways to prevent passing on mental illnesses to your precious one.


  1. Check your family’s lineage: Do a number of your family members suffer from a particular mental illness? It is possible that it can be passed on to your child genetically. If you are still unaware of any condition that can hamper your child’s development, there are tests can also detect existing genetic conditions. These tests might prove to be helpful later on.
  2. Mothers should take care of themselves physically and emotionally: A fetus can feel if his/ her mother is stressed or is suffering emotionally. More importantly, a stressful womb environment can affect the development of a fetus negatively. Schizophrenia and ADHD are just some examples of mental illnesses that result from maternal stress. This can lead a child to contract emotional and behavioral problems later on in life.


If you have depression, you should consult your medical professional immediately. They can give prescriptions on medications that are not harmful to developing a fetus.


Early Detection And Intervention: Consult An Expert

“Mental health issues can be caused by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors, and can have a minor or major impact on a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors.” Christina L. Gmyr, LMHC, NCC said. Visit your developmental pediatrician often. Consulting a development pediatrician can be very costly. However, the benefits far outweigh its perceived costs.



Developmental pediatricians can pinpoint developmental delays in infants that can lead to possibly more problematic mental illnesses in the future. Upon examining your child, they will be able to suggest activities or interventions that will improve your child’s predicament.


If your child is already an infant, and you’re suspecting your child to be suffering from any kind of mental illness, do not hesitate to consult medical professionals immediately. Often, waiting it out can make conditions worse for your child.


Support From Family

The presence of family is considered crucial, especially if there is already an existing mental illness in your child. Family members can provide needed support and understanding that a child craves for during these times. “Perinatal mental health can be improved or hindered depending on the level of supportive relationships within couples, families, and communities,” says Shana Averbach, LMFT.


No parent wants their children to have any kind of illness, may it be physical or mental. What makes mental illnesses harder to detect is that older people suffering from mental illnesses can choose to hide it. Thus, preventing the development of mental illnesses in fetuses and curbing its effects through intervention in infants and toddlers benefit them in the long run.



Depression Is Not Just A Feeling


Being depressed is not just feeling sad, unhappy, empty, or fed up. Every human being experiences these feelings, but with depression, it can last for weeks or months. It is not being weak or a state of mind that can be willed or wished away. This is a real disease with real symptoms, thus, it should not be taken lightly.

There are around 15 million Americans every year who is struggling with depression, each comes in different forms – from major depression and seasonal affective disorder to dysthymia and bipolar disorder. This is a considerable number to be taken for granted.

What Is Depression?

With what is happening in the world right now, it is important to be aware of what depression is and how to properly help people with this condition. Depression is considered to be a serious but common mood disorder. It triggers severe symptoms to influence your emotions, thought processes, and daily activities like eating, working or sleeping. The signs should remain for at least two weeks to be acknowledged as clinically depressed.

Depression with teens

Simon Rego, PsyD once said, “Many people mistakenly believe that if you can’t see it like you can a broken bone, it must be less significant and therefore can be overcome by simply using willpower. If not, they mistakenly believe that people who suffer from depression are weak.” We may have seen that most young people are being diagnosed with depression. This is mainly caused by their adolescence which is always an unsettling time because there are a lot of physical, emotional, psychological and social changes that occur at this stage.

Teens may experience a surge of emotional challenges when faced with unrealistic expectations from them which makes them feel disappointed about themselves. It is evident to them to feel that life is not being fair and that things would never go their way. This results in being stressed out and will then affect their outlook on their lives. It is important for parents to be sensitive enough to their children and help them get through with their lives.

How To Deal With It?


“There are many effective treatments for depression that are available to you when you make the decision to get help for your depression.” Dr. Chantal Gagnon PhD LMHC said. For people diagnosed with depression, it is essential to know that this condition is very treatable. It is said that 80-90 percent of people with depression eventually came in good terms with the treatment. They were able to cure most of their symptoms.

If you think you might have depression, the first thing to do is to seek professional help. A diagnostic evaluation should be conducted. It includes an interview and possibly a physical examination.

After a thorough examination, there will be a series of treatments to use, depending on the diagnosed condition. One way is through medication. Antidepressants might be used to help balance out one’s brain chemistry. You may use it for six months, or more depending on if the symptoms have improved.

Another way is through psychotherapy. It is popularly known as the mild treatment of depression. This form of therapy is focused mainly on the present and problem-solving.

“Depression is a disorder that develops from environmental and biological issues that are unique to each person.” says Deborah Serani, PsyD. People with depression should know that there help that is always available for them and that there hope for them. Mental health is equally vital to physical health, and the same treatment should be given to it. Caring and support can save a life.