A somatoform disorder is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms that suggest physical illness or injury – symptoms that cannot be explained fully by a general medical condition or by the direct effect of a substance, and are not attributable to another mental disorder (e.g., panic disorder). In people who have a somatoform disorder, medical test results are either normal or do not explain the person's symptoms, and history and physical examination do not indicate the presence of a medical condition that could cause them. Patients with this disorder often become worried about their health because doctors are unable to find a cause for their symptoms. This may cause severe distress. Preoccupation with the symptoms may portray a patient's exaggerated belief in the severity of their ill-health. Symptoms are sometimes similar to those of other illnesses and may last for several years. Usually, the symptoms begin appearing during adolescence, and patients are diagnosed before the age of 30 years. Symptoms may occur across cultures and gender. Other common symptoms include anxiety and depression. In order for an individual to be diagnosed with somatoform disorder, they must have recurring somatic complaints for several continuous years.
Somatoform disorders are not the result of conscious malingering (fabricating or exaggerating symptoms for secondary motives) or factitious disorders (deliberately producing, feigning, or exaggerating symptoms) – sufferers perceive their plight as real. Additionally, a somatoform disorder should not be confused with the more specific diagnosis of a somatization disorder. Various laboratory tests, physical examinations, and surgeries on these individuals show no evidence supporting the idea that these exaggerating symptoms are present. Mental disorders are treated separately from physiological or neurological disorders. Somatoform disorder is difficult to diagnose and treat since doing so requires psychiatrists to work with neurologists on patients with this disorder. Those that do not pass the diagnostic criteria for a somatoform disorder but still present physical symptoms are usually referred to as having "somatic preoccupation".
Sigmund Freud was a physiologist, medical doctor, and psychologist during the early twentieth century. Some of the main phenomena Freud explored were stages of development or psychosexual development, dream theory, id, ego, superego, and defense mechanisms. In this article, defense mechanisms will be explored in further depth and described in a way to give the reader a better understanding on the topic.
Defense mechanisms may result in healthy or unhealthy consequences depending on the circumstances and frequency the mechanism is used . In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, defense mechanisms are psychological strategies brought into play by the unconscious mind to manipulate, deny, or distort reality in order to defend against feelings of anxiety and unacceptable impulses to maintain one's self schema. These processes that manipulate, deny, or distort reality may include the following: repression, or the burying of a painful feeling or thought from one's awareness even though it may resurface in a symbolic form; identification, incorporating an object or thought into oneself; and rationalization, the justification of one's behavior and motivations by substituting "good" acceptable reasons for the motivations. Generally, repression is considered the basis for other defense mechanisms.