Sometimes a headache is just a headache.
To a person with somatization disorder, it’s brain cancer. A stomach ache? A sign of having six months to live. A pain in the arm? An imminent heart attack.
It’s easy to dismiss patients with somatization disorder – to a lot of people around the patient, it seems like a disease which always makes a person cry wolf. To the parent of a teen with somatization disorder, it’s a disease which looks like an attempt to get out of school or chores. It isn’t – to a patient with this disorder, the problems are all too real.
Sovereign Health knows that psychiatric illnesses like this need a lot of attention to recover from, particularly in younger people. Our residential treatment center, Rancho San Diego, offers adolescents aged 12 to 17 a welcoming, safe and secure space to work on their problems and move beyond their challenges.
The cruel thing about the physical somatization disorder symptoms is that they are real. A patient with this illness isn’t imagining their stomachache, or a cramp in their leg – they’re genuinely in pain. It’s that they’re in pain for completely different reasons. Someone with somatization disorder has a skewed sense of reality – they see every ache and pain as a harbinger of doom and not merely as momentary physical discomfort or the sign of a much less serious problem.
Patients with this disorder often become consumed with the idea of their health failing, spending hours researching diseases and symptoms. The repeated visits to the doctor a patient with somatization disorder do no good – often, a patient will ignore the doctor’s diagnosis, convinced they can’t see the real problem. In some cases, the obsession about health and disease can effectively cripple a person’s life by making them believe normal activities – school, work, social activities with friends – will only make their perceived health problems worse.
For teens, there’s an additional risk – somatization disorder, like many other mental illnesses, may not easily be misunderstood by their friends. A teen who thinks every blemish is skin cancer, every trip during a soccer game is a broken leg and spends a lot of time in the nurse’s office is very likely going to be made fun of and possibly face social rejection. This is the reason mental illnesses urgently need treating in adolescents.