[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
December 6, 1985

Somatization DisorderOne of Medicine's Blind Spots

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Internal Medicine, The Genesee Hospital, and the Division of Behavioral and Psychosocial Medicine, University of Rochester, New York.

JAMA. 1985;254(21):3075-3079. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360210091038

Patients with somatization disorders are frequently unrecognized and misdiagnosed. The diagnosis depends on recognizing a long-standing pattern of seeking medical intervention for vague, multisystemic symptoms, often without clear physical cause. These patients use symptoms as a way to communicate, express emotion, and be taken care of. Instead of recognizing the disorder and exploring psychosocial contributors to illness, nonpsychiatric physicians tend to repeatedly pursue organic possibilities through multiple tests, procedures, medications, and operations. In patients with somatization disorders, the dollar costs of this strategy are only exceeded by its potential for iatrogenic harm. More productive treatment strategies are presented, emphasizing the need for a long-term relationship with a primary care provider who will treat the patient and his symptoms seriously and respectfully but who is not compelled to invasively evaluate all symptoms.

(JAMA 1985;254:3075-3079)