HomeBlogConditionsManifestations of Undifferentiated Somatoform Disorder

Manifestations of Undifferentiated Somatoform Disorder

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This article will provide a comprehensive and empathetic overview of USD, including its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment

, to better inform and support those affected by this complex and often misunderstood disorder.

Introduction

If you are struggling with pain and symptoms you cannot explain, and you have tried other tests to no avail, you might be asking about hypochondriasis vs. undifferentiated somatoform disorder or “What is undifferentiated somatoform disorder?”

Somatoform disorders refer to a group of disorders that cause:

  1. Physical symptoms which cannot be explained by any other mental health condition, substance abuse, or medical condition, 
  2. Legitimate physical symptoms, not the result of malingering or factitious disorder, 
  3. Cause significant problems with daily function, social function, or work.

It is important to understand the difference between the disorders so that you know when to seek professional help. 

girl with somatoform disorder

What is undifferentiated somatoform disorder?

Undifferentiated somatoform disorder is one type of somatization disorder for cases that don’t fit the full criteria. It is a less specific version, hence the name “undifferentiated.” 

To receive a diagnosis, you will be given a health questionnaire where you note which issues have bothered you in the last several weeks and to what extent. 

Below is an example of a screening questionnaire:

IssueNot at allA littleA lot
Stomach pain
Back pain
Problems during intercourse
Headaches
Fainting spells
Dizziness
Nausea, gas, indigestion
Constipation, loose bowels, or diarrhea
Shortness of breath
Problems with menstruation 
This questionnaire will serve as a starting point for reviewing which symptoms you have, in which categories, and their severity. You will also need to undergo other tests to rule out things like substance abuse causes, mental health causes, or other physical causes. This can take a lot of time and effort because so many factors might contribute to the specific issues with which you are struggling.

Undifferentiated somatoform disorder symptoms

There are several categories of undifferentiated somatoform disorder symptoms of which you need to meet a few of each:

Gastrointestinal issues

In order to get a diagnosis of a somatoform disorder, you must have at least two of the following gastrointestinal issues:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Food intolerance

Pain

You must also have unexplained pain in at least four of the following areas:

  • Rectal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Head pain
  • Extremity pain
  • Dysuria
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Chest pain
  • Back pain
  • Abdominal pain

Pseudoneurologic issues

For a somatoform disorder diagnosis, you must have at least one pseudo-neurologic issue from the following list:

  • Amnesia
  • Aphonia
  • Impaired coordination
  • Blindness
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Urinary retention
  • Paresthesias
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness

Sexual issues

Another category of somatoform disorder symptoms is sexual symptoms. You must have at least one of the following:

  • Ejaculatory dysfunction
  • Irregular menses
  • Menorrhagia
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hyperemesis of pregnancy
  • Sexual indifference

Undifferentiated somatoform disorder criteria

In order to receive a diagnosis for undifferentiated somatoform disorder, you must have a history of unexplained physical complaints lasting at least six months, with chronic fatigue that is not explained by any other medical condition.

Differentiating USD from other disorders

It is important to understand the differences between things like hypochondriasis vs. undifferentiated somatoform disorder or factitious disorder so that you know what symptoms are indicative of a need for diagnosis and treatment. 

Below is a comparison of similar disorders and their main features:

Somatization disorder

With this disorder, unexplained physical symptoms begin to manifest before the age of 30, and they can last several years. Symptoms include gastrointestinal issues, pain, sexual issues, and pseudo-neurologic issues, none of which are explained by other causes.

Undifferentiated somatization disorder

This is the same as a somatization disorder, where the history of one or more unexplained physical symptoms has lasted for at least six months.

Hypochondriasis

Hypochondriasis is a fixation on the fear of having some form of life-threatening medical issue. In this case, the symptoms are not legitimate, and they instead stem from the anxiety surrounding potentially having a life-threatening medical condition.

Conversion disorder

A conversion disorder has a single unexplained symptom with pain as the predominant issue. The symptom usually involves sensory or voluntary function.

Pain disorder

A pain disorder is where psychological factors cause or exacerbate pain in the body, so the source is psychological rather than physical.

Current treatment modalities for undifferentiated somatoform disorder

Getting a diagnosis for undifferentiated somatoform disorder symptoms can take a lot of work because the pain and other symptoms have to be ruled out as related to anything else. This means there might be several tests you need to undergo. 

There are currently no specific tests or laboratory work that can confirm a diagnosis, but working to rule out other causes is a good way to start. 

The best way to get care is to consider a multidisciplinary approach to not only ensure a proper diagnosis while ruling out medical, psychological, and substance abuse contributors but also to ensure a well-rounded treatment program. 

It can be difficult to understand that physical symptoms can actually be caused by something other than a medical condition. As such, it might take some time working with several healthcare professionals to come to terms with the potential causes of your pain and other issues. 

There are four main categories and though you do not need to meet with all four categories to receive a diagnosis, you will want to consider working with more than one professional to find a solution to the independent issues with which you struggle. 

Moreover, if there isn’t a medical issue that can explain the symptoms you experience, you will need to work with a multidisciplinary team to find out whether things like therapy, medication, mindfulness, physical therapy, or other combinations of strategies work for managing your personal issues. 

Summing Up

Undifferentiated somatoform disorder is a category of disorders that cause unexplained pain, usually manifesting before the age of 30. If you are experiencing symptoms that don’t quite fit all of the requirements for a somatoform disorder, you might have an undifferentiated somatoform disorder. You should always reach out for professional help and support in getting a correct diagnosis and treatment.

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