Somatic Symptom Disorders

Somatic Symptom Disorders

Somatic symptom disorders (SSD) are mental health conditions characterized by physical symptoms that are distressing, disruptive and difficult to manage. It is commonly referred to as “medically unexplained symptoms.” The physical symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include fatigue, pain, digestive or urinary issues, and difficulty breathing.

People with SSD often feel anxious, depressed, isolated, and desperate for a solution as their physical complaints are often dismissed or disregarded by health care providers. Additionally, SSD can cause difficulty in completing daily activities and functioning in social situations.


The physical symptoms of SSD can vary in intensity and type, and can be accompanied by psychological symptoms such as fear, worry, and obsessions. Examples of common physical symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Digestive issues
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain


The exact cause of SSD is not known. However, there are many possible contributing factors, including a traumatic event or ongoing stressful life experiences, genetics, and certain personality traits such as a tendency to be focused on health and well-being.


Treatment for SSD typically involves both physical and psychological interventions. Physical interventions may include medications to manage chronic pain or sleep difficulties, as well as referral to other health care providers for specialized care. Psychological interventions may include cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and to address the underlying causes of the symptoms. Other therapies, such as physical therapy, acupuncture, and lifestyle modifications, may help as well.