Managing somatization phenomena in primary care.Psychiatr Med. 1990; 8(4):117-27.PM
Patients communicating psychological distress in the form of somatic symptoms and seeking medical care for them pose difficult diagnostic and treatment dilemmas for the primary care physician. Somatization may be conceptualized as an illness-focused behavior style, with multiple etiologies, rather than a single psychiatric disorder. Somatizing behavior is associated with emotional distress, cognitive-perceptual abnormalities, and socially learned illness behaviors. Although recognition of the somatizing patient begins with thorough medical evaluation, assessment should also include careful examination of social history and the affective meaning of symptoms. Management strategies will vary according to the etiology of the psychiatric diagnosis associated with physical symptoms; however, the essential element is provision of a long-term supportive relationship with a physician, who provides effective monitoring of physical and mental health status, appropriate emotional support, and reassurance concerning symptoms.