Article

Somatization in the population: From mild bodily misperceptions to disabling symptoms

Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Mainz, Staudingerweg 9, 55099 Mainz, Germany.
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology (Impact Factor: 2.58). 10/2006; 41(9):704-12. DOI: 10.1007/s00127-006-0082-y
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This study investigates the prevalence of current somatization in the population by taking different levels of symptom severity into account. Somatization is described along a continuum from mild and negligible bodily misperceptions to severe and disabling somatoform symptoms.
A representative sample of 2.552 persons in Germany was examined with a screening instrument for medically unexplained physical complaints that had occurred during the past 7 days. All 53 symptoms from the ICD-10/DSM-IV sections of somatoform disorders were included.
81.6% reported at least one symptom causing at least mild impairment and 22.1% at least one symptom causing severe impairment. The entire sample had an average of 6.6 symptoms associated with at least mild distress. Somatization of any degree was associated with female gender, age above 45, lower educational level, lower household income and rural area. The most common symptoms with prevalence rates > 20% were various types of pain (back, head, joints, extremities), food intolerance, sexual indifference, painful menstruations and erectile/ejaculatory dysfunction.
This population survey demonstrates that medically unclear complaints are an everyday phenomenon. About three out of four cases are below clinical relevance with only low level of impairment. Epidemiological correlates are similar between clinical and non-clinical forms of somatization.

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Available from: Winfried Rief, Aug 31, 2015
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    • "First, we extend the diagnostic spectrum by including somatoform disorders. This addition is stimulated by a substantial amount of literature highlighting that somatoform disorders like somatization and pain disorders are particularly impairing and with a frequently chronic course with a substantially degree of help-seeking, utilization of health services and high cost burden [4] [14] [16] [15] [32]. Second, we provide a more comprehensive characterization of disability days. "
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    • "Lastly, ED may represent a frequent symptom in somatization disorders, especially in men of over 45 years old [61]. "
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    • "Symptom intensities of 53 physical symptoms from the somatization symptom lists of ICD-10 and DSM-IV were measured according to the Screening for Somatoform Symptoms 7-day version (SOMS-7d) [24,25], with the difference that instructions asked participants to report perceived impairment for all symptoms, without requesting participants to differentiate between MUS and MES. The SOMS-7d was designed to measures impairment by 53 typical somatization symptoms, such as “headache”, “bloating” or “back ache” on a 5-point Likert-scale within the last seven days: Scores are 0 (symptom absent or not impairing), 1 (mild), 2 (medium), 3 (severe) and 4 (very severe). "
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