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Psychosomatic Disorders

Updated: Jun 7, 2021


Psychosomatic science is built in an intermediate position between medicine and psychology and is responsible for studying psychosomatic illnesses. These are characterized by frequent visits to health services without any somatic cause being found for the individual's complaints.

Psychosomatics reminds us how Descartes erred in considering the separation of body and mind. In the view of this science, it is imperative that health professionals consider the human being in an integral way. She intends to study the interrelationship between psychological and physical aspects. Thus, any type of symptom can be under analysis, be it physical, emotional, psychic, behavioral, social, etc.

The most common cases arise from multiple physical complaints with no apparent cause, when no disease or organic change is detected. The most severe cases can constitute a somatization disorder, more prevalent in anxious and depressed people.

The most common psychosomatic illnesses may manifest themselves in several body constituents, namely:

  • Stomach: pain and burning, feeling sick, worsening of gastritis and gastric ulcers;

  • Bowel: diarrhea, constipation;

  • Throat: feeling of lump in the throat, constant sore throat and tonsils;

  • Lungs: sensations of shortness of breath and suffocation, which can mimic lung or heart disease;

  • Muscles and joints: tension, contractures and muscle pain;

  • Heart and circulation: feeling of pain in the chest, which can even be confused with a heart attack, palpitations, emergence or worsening of high blood pressure;

  • Kidneys and Bladder: feeling pain or difficulty urinating;

  • Skin: itching, burning or tingling sensation;

  • Pelvic region: worsening of impotence and decreased sexual desire, difficulty in getting pregnant and alterations in the menstrual cycle;

  • Nervous system: headaches, migraines, changes in vision, balance, sensitivity (numbness, tingling) and motor skills, which can simulate neurological diseases.

The correct diagnosis of an illness of this type should be confirmed by both a psychiatrist and a general practitioner, so that all the necessary physical examinations can be carried out before even considering the possibility of a psychosomatic cause.

Psychosomatic illnesses have their main cause in emotional instability or are aggravated by it. This instability can originate from the most diverse punctual/prolonged events or life adversities. Some examples include burnout (hour load and/or extreme stress in the work context that result in physical and psychological wear), trauma, chronic stress, situations of physical and/or psychological violence, anxiety or depression.

Appropriate treatment requires psychiatric care and psychotherapy, as well as adjuvant pharmacotherapy in the most severe cases – anxiolytics or antidepressants may help the process and facilitate involvement in psychotherapy. Other medications may alleviate more debilitating symptoms, such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs and antihistamines.

The most important aspect of the treatment is to promote the well-being of the individual concerned, which implies a very particular process tailored to the person.


Pereira, M. Doença Psicossomática – O que é e como surge? [Página web]. Recuperado de

Faria., C. (2019, junho). Doenças psicossomáticas mais comuns, como identificar e tratar. [Página web]. Recuperado de

Fava, G. A., Cosci, F., & Sonino, N. (2016). Current Psychosomatic Practice. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 86, 13-30. doi:10.1159/000448856

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