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March 16, 1984

The Somatizing Disorders: Illness as a Way of Life

Author Affiliations

The University of Chicago

JAMA. 1984;251(11):1482-1483. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340350070037

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Those of us who provide medical care services continue to be perplexed, fascinated, annoyed, and discouraged by an old phenomenon: physical illness behaviors by patients who have nonexistent or insignificant physical diseases. Although this group of patients, who usually have psychiatric disorders, is relatively small, they receive a large proportion of nonpsychiatric medical care resources. We psychiatrists and behavioral scientists have described these patients and ventured to understand and treat them. However, the knowledge base remains piecemeal, scattered, idiosyncratic, and lacking a unifying perspective.

Charles V. Ford, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn, has contributed a substantive work by exhaustively gathering and reviewing the literature on the somatizing disorders. Rather than recite others' descriptions and impressions, he synthesizes this information with modern-day psychiatric nosology. Moreover, Dr Ford, a clinician who works as a consultation-liaison psychiatrist to medically and surgically ill patients, acknowledgingly offers his point of view