Putting It Together: Somatic Symptom Disorders and Dissociative Disorders

Man in thought.

Figure 1. Reflecting on studied material, and considering how it might be applied today or in your future vocation is an important part of learning.

In this module, you learned about dissociative disorders such as dissociative amnesia, DID, and depersonalization/derealization. You also reviewed somatic symptom and related disorders, including illness anxiety disorder, functional neurological symptom disorder (conversion disorder), and factitious disorder. By this point, you should have a basic, yet firm grasp on understanding how each is unique in its presentation of symptoms, how they affect people, and some of the common treatment methods. Take a look at some of the popular treatment methods. What might a treatment plan look like if you were to develop one based on a certain psychological perspective? Or how might one’s theoretical background or way of thinking about a disorder prompt the research of a helpful method for treating it? How might you respond if you were a therapist treating someone with symptoms similar to those outlined in this module? Given how often these disorders may be misdiagnosed and/or undiagnosed for years, consider the challenge this presents to counselors. It’s important to take time to reflect on learning and think critically about concepts.

As you reflect on what you’ve gleaned from this module, spend a moment reviewing the disorders discussed in this module:

  • functional neurological symptom disorder (conversion disorder): a type of somatic disorder that is sometimes applied to patients who present with neurological symptoms which are not otherwise explained by a well-established organic cause, and often can be traced back to a psychological trigger
  • dissociative amnesia: dissociative disorder characterized by an inability to recall important personal information, usually following an extremely stressful or traumatic experience
  • depersonalization/derealization disorder: dissociative disorder in which people feel detached from the self (depersonalization), and the world feels artificial and unreal (derealization)
  • dissociative identity disorder (DID): formerly known as multiple personality disorder, DID is at the far end of the dissociative disorder spectrum; characterized by at least two distinct, and dissociated personality states which alternately control a person’s behavior; sufferer, therefore, experiences significant memory impairment for important information not explained by ordinary forgetfulness
  • dissociative fugue: symptom of dissociative amnesia in which a person suddenly wanders away from one’s home and experiences confusion about their identity
  • factitious disorder: a condition in which a person, without a malingering motive, acts as if they have an illness by deliberately producing, feigning, or exaggerating symptoms, purely to attain (for themselves or for another) a patient’s role; presents in two ways: factitious disorder imposed on self occurs when someone feigns illness so they experience being the patient and factitious disorder imposed on another is a condition in which a person deliberately produces, feigns, or exaggerates the symptoms of someone in their care
  • illness anxiety disorder: a disorder in which a person does not typically have physical symptoms, rather they are preoccupied with a fear of developing a severe medical condition; two categories of patients in this group are the care-seeking type and care-avoidant type
  • insomnia: a sleep disorder in which there is an inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as long as desired; symptoms also include waking up too early, experience many awakenings during the night, and not feeling rested during the day
  • somatic symptom disorder: a mental disorder that manifests as physical symptoms that suggest illness or injury, but cannot be explained fully by a general medical condition