Somatic Symptom Vs Illness Anxiety: 2 Common Disorders

This article will cover different aspects of somatic symptom vs illness anxiety disorders in detail. First, we will discuss what somatic symptom1 disorder is and what illness anxiety disorders are. Both somatic symptoms and illness anxiety 2are mental illness disorders.

In simple words, somatic symptom disorder and illness anxiety disorder are both mental disorders. In Somatic symptom disorder, typically, the person losses control of the physical process, or we can state that physical symptoms are visible in the somatic symptom disorder. In contrast, on the other hand, in Illness anxiety disorder, the person suffers from anxiety and depression. Both diseases come under the serious illness anxiety disorder and are very health concerns.

In both, the patient of the disease needs family support and some therapies and counseling 3seasons, which can teach them how to control these feelings of being ill and manage their negative thoughts. This counseling helps them a lot instead of any medication or any surgery because, in reality, they are not sick. They are fit and fine. Let’s discuss every disorder in detail.

1. What Is Somatic Symptom Disorder

The somatic symptom disorder is a typical diagnostic and statistical manual of mental when the person has a significant disruption of physical symptoms, including pain, shortness of breath, weakness, and major dissociative disorders. This is a very serious medical condition. This is one of the very common mental disorders and medical illnesses.

In this disorder, the patient suffers from excessive thoughts, behaviors, and feelings related to the physical symptoms. In some cases, these physical symptoms may or may not be associated with the patient’s medical condition, but the person or the patient thinks and have the feeling or thoughts that they are not well. They are ill.

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Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

Somatic symptoms are not having any particular known causes till now, which is why people with somatic symptoms used to think that they are sick. The mental health professional examines the physical symptoms and prescribes several patient medications and certain therapies for the treatment.

The somatic symptom disorder is behavioral-related. This can be developed in the individual due to many reasons, including a specific illness, family history, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, a manual of mental disorders, and depression.

The person or the patients in somatoform disorders experiences medical condition related to a physical symptom. This comes under psychotic disorders. This underlying medical condition needs immediate attention, diagnosis, and treatment; otherwise, the patient’s condition may worsen with excessive time.

1.1. Somatic Symptom: Diagnosis

  • If the patient complains about health anxiety and panic disorder along with distressing physical symptoms in daily life, then this is the first sign of Somatic symptom disorder.

  • Seeking reassurance, exaggerating symptoms, physical complaints, worrying excessively, and behaviors related to the care-seeking type and care-avoidant type people have a high risk of having somatic symptoms.

  • High level of anxiety and depression about symptoms and extra health concerns.

Among all the three symptoms mentioned above, if anyone is constantly present, it somehow confirms that the patients are suffering from the somatic symptom disorder and need medical care.

1.2.  Somatic Symptom: Treatment

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Image by Max from Pixabay

The main treatment of somatic symptom disorder is to control the physical symptoms and to allow the patients to work as normally as possible, as this is related to mental illness. Hence, medical professionals’ and doctors’ main and major focus is to control the individual’s negative and extra random thoughts.

Treating patients with this medical condition is advised by repeatedly checking along with regular health checkups with trusted healthcare professionals.

Another very important process, or we can say treatment for such patients, is Psychotherapy4, which means talking therapy in simple words. These therapies can somehow change the mentality of the individual and can also change the thinking and behaviors related to problems.

This therapy also teaches the patients how to cope with pain, excessive thoughts, and fear of being sick. Some common medications like Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs 5are given to patients facing anxiety disorder.

2. Somatic Symptom: Illness Anxiety Disorder

Illness anxiety disorder is also referred to as chronic mental illness. Hypochondria is another name for the illness anxiety disorder. This disorder or illness is very much related to health anxiety. Patients with illness anxiety disorder are very much concerned about their health anxiety. In this illness anxiety disorder, the patients continuously think they have some major issue or some major illness, but they are actually fit and normal.

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Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

In illness anxiety disorder, the patients do not have any symptoms. Still, they think they are sick and not well. This is a very life-threatening illness because, in some cases, patients start taking medicines for the disorder, which they are not even facing in real life.

The illness anxiety disorder also includes, in some cases, obsessive-compulsive disorder and illness-related preoccupation, along with artificial conditions.

2.1. Type Of Illness Anxiety Disorder

Illness anxiety disorder is categorized according to the patient’s behavior. These two categories are described below.

1. Care-Seeking Type

In this type of illness anxiety disorder, patients spend most of their time in healthcare; they used to switch multiple doctors for the consult. And also, patients used to request doctors for various medical tests.

2. Care Avoidant Type

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Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

In this type of illness, anxiety disorder, the patient generally avoids a doctor or any medical condition treatment. They might also not trust the doctor and think they have serious medical conditions and need a diagnosis. Still, that particular doctor cannot understand the disease or the illness, which is why they cannot make the diagnosis.


  • The main causes of the illness anxiety disorder are childhood trauma


    , including neglect and child abuse.

  • Most individuals, due to extreme stress, also face illness anxiety disorder.

  • The fear of health anxiety is also the main cause of Illness anxiety disorder along with this diagnosed anxiety disorder in family history.

  • Some serious diseases are diagnosed in the family with close ones.

  • Emotional abuse, rape, and physical abuse also increase the severity of an illness anxiety disorder.

2.2. Diagnosis And Symptoms

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Image by Silvia from Pixabay

People with illness anxiety disorder have a unique concern related to having some serious illness or serious disease, which is very serious and needs to be immediately diagnosed.

Although there are some cases where the person may be suffering from some health issues, those are not that big, and their illness anxiety disorder makes that health issue more severe and difficult to treat.

  • Symptoms of an illness anxiety disorder include

  • Avoiding social gatherings so that they will not get some disease or health issues from the crowd.

  • Researching diseases and symptoms.

  • Obsessed with normal body functions, including heart rate.

  • Constantly monitors the health status, including blood pressure, sugar, and all.

If any symptom above the above mentioned is visible, then that person might be affected by the illness anxiety disorder.

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Note- According to the American psychiatric association, any person who fulfills the criteria in their Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, also called DSM iv, fifth edition, has the illness anxiety disorder and needs medical care.

3. Difference Between Somatic Symptom Vs Illness Anxiety

Somatic symptom disorder vs illness anxiety disorder is both related to mental disorders. There is only a minor difference between somatic symptom disorder and illness anxiety disorder, and there is little difference.

In somatic symptom disorder, the patient also has physical symptoms; those physical symptoms may or may not be a concern with any serious issues. But in illness anxiety disorder, the patients do not have any physical symptoms. They assume that they are suffering from serious illness and require immediate treatment.

This is the only difference between somatic symptoms disease and illness anxiety disorder. That somatic symptoms disease physical symptoms, whereas illness anxiety disorder does not include any physical symptoms.

4. Conclusion

Both disorders’ somatic symptom vs illness anxiety disorder is related to a mental condition. In other words, they are also referred to as mental illness disorders, which in simple words means the diseases or disorders completely related to the brain. The brain is the major organ in these disorders to get affected.

The patients in both states think they are suffering from a major illness and need immediate treatment; otherwise, their life is in danger.

This is not real. They assume this thing. On the other hand, in reality, they are normal and are not having any serious or major illnesses. Sometimes, this becomes very dangerous because they take different medicines without a prescription. 

In somatic symptom disorder, the patients also have some physical symptoms. Still, those symptoms may or may not be concerned with any serious illness. On the other hand, the patient does not have any physical signs of illness or anxiety disorder.

These patients need immediate care and psychological treatment because being ill is just their feeling or thinking. More than any medication or other thing, they need their family support and a good psychologist who can help them control these thoughts and feelings.


1. Are there any self-help strategies for managing somatic symptom disorder?

A. While professional treatment is recommended, some self-help strategies may complement therapy. These include stress-reduction techniques, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking social support.

2. Can somatic symptom disorder affect anyone?

A. Yes, SSD can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. However, it is more common in women and often starts during adolescence or early adulthood.

3. Is somatic symptom disorder the same as hypochondria?

A. Somatic symptom disorder was previously known as hypochondriasis, but the diagnostic criteria and understanding of the condition have evolved. The term “hypochondria” is no longer used in the DSM-5. Instead, the focus is on the distress and impairment caused by the physical symptoms themselves, rather than excessive worry about having a serious medical condition.

Read more

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  2. Chorpita, Bruce F., and David H. Barlow. “The development of anxiety: The role of control in the early environment.” The Neurotic Paradox, Vol 2 (2018): 227-264. ↩︎
  3. Sheperis, M. Harry Daniels Carl J., J. Scott Young, and M. Daniels. Counseling research. Pearson India, 2009. ↩︎
  4. Eysenck, Hans J. “The effects of psychotherapy: An evaluation.” The Experimental Study of Freudian Theories (Psychology Revivals). Routledge, 2013. 365-384. ↩︎
  5. Moffat, Anthony C., et al. Clarke’s analysis of drugs and poisons. Vol. 3. London: Pharmaceutical press, 2011. ↩︎
  6. Van der Kolk, Bessel A. Psychological trauma. American Psychiatric Pub, 2003. ↩︎

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