According to the American Psychiatric Association, DSM-IV-TR (2000), physical symptoms and signs elicited by somatoform disorders may indicate a severe medical condition capable of inflicting functional impairment and distress to a patient.
Tazaki and Landlaw (2006) recognize five types of somatoform disorders, namely; conversion disorder, pain disorder, somatization disorder, dysmorphic disorder and hypochondriasis.
Diagnosis for somatoform disorder relies on a patient’s history of physiological symptoms that are either serious or bothersome or inflict pain and distress. Symptoms of importance are those that cannot be explained medically and usually emerge when a patient is exposed to stress.
Kroenke and Swindle (2000) carried out a review on 31 CBT controlled, reported cases of somatoform disorders. In their review, 29 trials were randomized while the other two were not.
The authors found out that physical symptoms were rampant in the patients. While administering CBT, significant improvement was observed in more than 71% of the trials. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) also improved response in a further 11% of the trials.
Only 38% of the studies expressed a definite advantage of using CBT to reduce psychological distress. In addition, 26% of the studies showed the possibility of using CBT in improving a patient’s functional status.
It was intriguing to find out that stress and conflict may initiate or increase the magnitude of pain. This occurred in 10-15% of cases. In addition, they found out that pain problems are diverse. Unfortunately, many patients who turned up at emergency units with chest pains did not receive specialized treatment.
Patients left facilities after assessments that confirmed their condition to be normal (Mayou, Bryant, Clark, & Forfar, 1994). Similarly, usage of relaxation technique sufficed as paramount.
In a separate study, Van-Peski-Oosterbann, Spinhoven, van Rood, van der Does, & Rooijmans (1999), studied an experimental group receiving CBT techniques such as breathing, coping skills and relaxation against another group receiving normal treatment.
The researchers observed notable improvements in the group under CBT.
There is a need to conduct further objective studies involving individuals and groups in order to explore the effect of each therapy technique and compare them against each other.
Such a study can expose peculiar benefits each technique holds in relieving somatoform disorders. More studies should also be carried out to establish synergy between therapy and psychopharmacological treatments.