Somatic Symptom Disorders and Dissociative Disorders

When consulting with a doctor, most patients have a mixture of physical and mental complaints that should not be overlooked and appropriately treated. The former is usually referred to as somatic symptoms or somatoform. The somatic disorders are defined by physical sicknesses, such as pain, dyspnea, fatigue, or sensory changes with little or no demonstrable organic or physiological pathology. It results in excessive thoughts and behaviors regarding the symptoms. The latter is a dissociative disorder, which is characterized by a disconnection from or alteration in functions of consciousness, memory, or even identity. Individuals with such mental disorders often lack continuity between their thoughts and surroundings. In this essay, the differences and specific features and therapeutic processes that are known today are discussed and analyzed.

Somatization usually cannot be scientifically explained, and symptoms tend to vary, making it difficult to diagnose and treat the illness. The diagnosis requires an individual to experience unexplained symptoms for at least six months. Besides pain, weakness, and other physical symptoms, it often causes cognitive symptoms, such as persistent fear or thoughts about the symptoms, which causes anxiety. The most critical aspect in treating such diseases lies in improving cognitive complaints through cognitive-behavioral therapy by encouraging individuals to engage in behaviors that they think are limited because of their physical symptoms. One of the most effective and low-service cost methods is the CARE MD approach (Peterson, 2021). After proper and extensive evaluation of experienced pain and cognitive symptoms, the physicians choose a treatment plan that suits the patient’s needs and includes frequent visits and communication.

In some cases, psychodynamic therapy is needed to address the primary psychopathology of the client. According to Reuille-Dupont, “somatic psychology interventions actively integrate the layers of experience using the body as a vehicle for the understanding relationship to self, others, and the environment (Reuille-Dupont, 2021). Overall, somatic disorders are challenging to identify and manage as the patient might exaggerate the complaints. In these cases, a proper diagnosis of brain functionality and abnormalities is required to start the therapeutic process.

The dissociation can happen daily and is described as a mental state of short disconnection. However, some people experience a more severe form of the more pervasive disorder and cannot be turned off easily. When this is the case, the person has a dissociative disorder and requires treatment. It tends to stem from trauma, usually early childhood abuse or neglect and is thought to be a mechanism to cope with negative feelings and events. Their severity lists three main types of dissociative disorder. Depersonalization/derealization disorder (DDD) is a feeling of detachment from oneself or the world, which the individual might think is not accurate. People with such symptoms might feel emotionally and physically numb, have an altered sense of time, and have trouble forming relationships. In dissociative amnesia, the individuals block out or forget important personal information, usually people and events from childhood. The research showed that most female participants from 13-18 years experienced some form of trauma in childhood, whether it was sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying at school, loss of family members, or the presence of medical records (Sharma et al., 2021). The identity disorder is medically confirmed to be the most severe form of dissociation. These people can alter their whole personalities and perspectives or create multiple identities with different tastes, views, genders, and even speak other languages. The most commonly used way of treatment is processing the trauma safely by communicating and creating a safe space to facilitate the fusion of identities.

To conclude, the treatment for both types of disorders includes intensive psychotherapy since the initial cause is considered to be on the cognitive and psychological levels of consciousness. In the case of somatoform, the therapeutic focus is placed on improving daily functioning and quality of life for the patient, not managing and treating the symptoms. At the same time, dissociation diseases require more thorough analyses of outer expression as they may lead to the cause emergence of sickness. A further and in-depth analysis will plan out the suitable psychotherapy to treat the problem at its root.


Peterson, P. R. (2021). Overwhelmed by Bodily Sensations: Understanding Somatic Symptom Disorders. Physician Assistant Clinics, 6(3), 515–526. Web.

Reuille-Dupont, S. (2021). Applications of somatic psychology: movement and body experience in the treatment of dissociative disorders. Body, Movement & Dance in Psychotherapy, 16(2), 105–119. Web.

Sharma, R., Satapathy, S., Choudhary, V., & Sagar, R. (2021). Childhood Trauma and Clinical Correlates of Dissociative Disorders among Adolescents: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Indian Association for Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 17(3), 92–111.

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