Somatic Symptoms Disorder vs. Illness Anxiety Disorder

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over two very similar conditions. You'll learn a bit about them individually and then their major differences. They're called somatic symptom disorder and illness anxiety disorder.

Similar Conditions

Quick: what's the difference between a coffee cup and coffee mug? The difference, whatever it is, is quite subtle. Ok, maybe one is bigger than the other? That's about it though. Well, the differences between this lesson's two disorders are equally subtle. In fact, not long ago they were both part of a now largely abandoned term of hypochondriasis, which gave us the more famous and slightly pejorative term hypochondriac.

These two conditions are known as somatic symptom disorder (SSD) and illness anxiety disorder (IAD). You're about to learn the fundamentals and fundamental differences of these conditions.

What Is Somatic Symptom Disorder?

Somatic symptom disorder, SSD, refers to a condition where a person experiences physical symptoms and negative thoughts and feelings about these symptoms to the point that they interfere with their daily life. In other words, the symptoms themselves and/or the person's reaction to them can disrupt their daily life. They may even get depressed!

The physical symptoms people with SSD experience are real, and may include pain and fatigue. They can come and go and they may be mild or severe in nature. These symptoms often have no significant medical cause and may even be normal bodily sensations, like a transient muscle ache from simple over-exertion.

If there is an underlying medical condition, then a person with SSD disproportionately reacts to it. For instance, a minor toothache stemming from a cavity might be interpreted as a sign of an impending heart attack when the person is perfectly healthy otherwise.

As a result, the person may worry excessively and even go to several doctors to get checked out over and over again even when each one tells them nothing is wrong.

What is Illness Anxiety Disorder?

Very similar to this is illness anxiety disorder, or IAD. This is a disorder where a person is overly preoccupied with having or getting a disease. People with this disorder may have no physical symptoms whatsoever. They may interpret normal bodily processes, such as digestive sounds, sweating, bloating or awareness of their own heartbeat as signs of a serious illness. People with IAD will worry excessively about their health. They'll constantly check their body for signs of illness. They'll go to the doctor over and over again but won't believe that everything is okay when it is. All of this can disrupt their daily life just like SSD.

Somatic Symptoms Disorder Vs. Illness Anxiety Disorder

As you can probably tell already, the differences between the two disorders are quite subtle. The major ones include the following:

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