How to Treat the Elderly Hypochondriac

Somatization Disorder: General Approach & Management

Dr. A. Abdulla, BSc, MD, LMCC, CCFP, DipSportMed

"Doctor I feel like vomiting, there is pain in my arms and legs, I am always exhausted, cannot catch my breath, have difficulty swallowing, and have a poor memory." This is the worst way to start with your first patient on Monday morning, but it really happened to me about a week ago. Normally, I would try to see whether Mrs. B. had any other complaints but somehow I felt compelled to just go with the first six.

This article deals with a fairly common condition called somatization disorder (SD). It fits into a category of unusual conditions, like body dysmorphic disorder, hypochondriasis, conversion disorder, and somatoform pain disorder, collectively called somatoform disorders. Most physicians will rarely see these conditions; however, SD is very common. Studies cite that more than fifty percent of patients presenting to a primary care center with vague ill-defined symptoms have SD.1-3

Somatization disorder involves multiple, ill-defined symptoms, stemming from a number of organ systems. The symptoms described by patients do not fit any classical patterns of typical medical conditions.