Somatic Symptom Disorder: Definition & Symptoms

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, we will explore the definition, symptoms, and underlying characteristics of a very real condition known as somatic symptom disorder (SSD).

Disastrous Aches

Have you ever had a minor ache or pain you couldn't explain? Perhaps you've suffered from shoulder pain or some other irritation. Did you panic when that happened? Probably not. In fact, that ache probably went away in short order, and you soon forgot all about it.

But for some people, that little ache could signal a perceived disaster. Keep reading to discover how people who suffer from somatic symptom disorder may deal with these kinds of symptoms.

What Is Somatic Symptom Disorder?

First, let's define what the words 'somatic' and 'symptom' actually mean. This will help us understand this disorder more clearly.

  • Somatic is a word that comes to us from the Greek work 'somatikos,' which refers to the physical body. Thus, something somatic relates to or affects the body.
  • A symptom is a subjective experience. It could be a feeling. Pain is subjective, meaning it is perceived differently by each person. For example, a stubbed toe could be very painful for one person but not painful to another.

A symptom is not the same thing as a sign, however. A medical sign is objective. Your temperature is a medical sign, not a symptom. A temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is exactly that--no room for opinion or feeling there!

In short, somatic symptom disorder (SSD) is a condition where a person feels a physical problem in their body and experiences disproportionately negative thoughts as a result of it.


Let's further explore what that means and what this disorder entails in the context of various symptoms.

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