Should Somatization Be Removed as Diagnosis?

Somatization occurs when you feel something physical as a result of an emotional or stressful feeling, but some doctors feel that the term is being used too much and not appropriately. In fact, many doctors believe that the term does not belong in medical terminology.

The term was first used by a psychoanalyst (Stekel) who used somatization to describe physical pain or discomfort that was caused by a psychological cause - hysteria being the most common. In fact, the term hysteria was used quite frequently over 2000 years of medicine.

Many of the illnesses that were first labeled as hysteria (or somatization) were figured out, there still remained a many patients who had physical complaints but no clear-cut or obvious reason for them. These patients were all lumped together and they could be either labeled as somatization or, in some cases, as hypochondriacs, people who believe they are ill when they aren't.

A lot of study went into somatization and the diagnosis of somatization was included in what is considered to be psychiatric bible, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), in 1980. Unfortunately, by determining diagnosis such as somatization, many patients' complaints were not investigated further, especially if the complaint was for pain. Yet, in the 21st century, some doctors are still making the diagnosis of somatization.

The author of this article believes that the term should be dropped from the upcoming DSM-V version because somatization does not have a place in diagnosis.

Harold Merskey. Somatization: or another God that failed. In Pain. September 2009. Vol. 145. Nos. 1 to 2. Pp. 4 to 5.

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