Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD) is a mental health condition characterized by the feeling of distressing physical symptoms that cannot be explained adequately by medical examinations.
Also known as Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders (SSRDs), the condition can cause the patient to have abnormal thoughts, fatigue, and behavioral changes, leading to debilitating discomfort and psychological distress.
People with SSD or SSRDs are often unaware of their underlying mental health conditions and believe their symptoms are caused by a physical ailment.
However, even after uncovering their mental cause, their worry is always above the physical symptoms.
Some cognitive factors that can contribute to somatic symptoms and related disorders include:
- Extreme attention to bodily sensations.
- Distorted health ideas and assuming other healthy people do not feel similar discomfort or symptoms.
- Catastrophic conclusions in extreme conditions.
Other Forms of Somatic Symptom Disorders
Somatic Symptom Disorder (SSD), or simply somatoform disorder, was used in the previous editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
However, after undergoing significant reclassification, it was replaced by the broader category of SSRDs in the fifth edition of DSM (DSM-5).
The category provides a deeper understanding of the connection between physical and psychological symptoms.
Therefore, while it is still medically challenging to examine and establish what causes the disorders, here are different disorders that fall within the broader SSRDs category:
- Illness Anxiety Disorder: Formerly known as hypochondriasis, the disorder is characterized by excessive worry about having a serious illness with little or no medical evidence. People with illness anxiety disorder often mistake normal bodily sensations with severe medical conditions.
- Conversion Disorder: Also known as Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder, the condition is characterized by the presence of neurological symptoms like blindness, seizures, and paralysis with no medical explanation. The symptoms are also believed to be caused by psychological stressors.
- Factitious Disorder: The condition involves intentional fabrication, exaggeration, or induction of physical or psychological symptoms. People with this disorder may fake illness to seek attention or assume the role of a sick person.
- Other specified and unspecified SSRDs: The group consists of other physical or psychological symptoms that do not fit the criteria or any specific SSRD but still cause significant distress to the patient.
8 Celebrities with Somatic Symptom Disorder
1. David Beckham
David Robert Joseph Beckham is a former football player and soccer businessman who has played for several glorious teams.
Besides having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) David Beckham is also said to have Illness Anxiety Disorder that resulted from several injuries during the peak of his career.
2. Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson spent almost his entire life in the public eye as a talented entertainer.
He started his music career at the age of 6 years as part of the Jackson 5, a group led by his father. Throughout his journey, he was obsessed with the idea of looking perfect to his fans, which led to his Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
His insecurities also led to symptoms of emotional distress such as sadness, hopelessness, and dissatisfaction. These are characteristics of Conversion Disorder.
3. Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen has gone viral for his reckless behavior and frequent problems with the law.
However, his bizarre behavior is believed to be caused by a string of mental conditions such as Bipolar and Somatic Symptom disorders.
He is also said to suffer from pathological narcissism.
4. Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey is another iconic celebrity who has suffered from mental disorders such as SSD-related Bipolar Disorder.
The American singer, songwriter, and actress was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder type II in 2001 after suffering physical and emotional collapse.
Although with little clinical evidence, people with Bipolar Disorder are more likely to experience somatic symptoms, including denial, behavioral changes, and social distress.
5. Oprah Winfrey
Who would ever think the outspoken Oprah Winfrey also battled SSRDs such as Illness Anxiety Disorder to this day?
According to her, her anxiety disorder developed due to feeling awkward about other people’s mental conditions and childhood trauma.
Fortunately, she has used her public presence to create awareness and encourage other patients to talk about and overcome their mental illnesses.
6. Howie Mandel
Howie Mandel has spoken severally about his struggle with physical and mental ailments.
Besides OCD and anxiety disorder, Mandel also battles depression, and Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
He has, however, become a strong advocate for creating awareness and ending the stigma surrounding mental disorders.
7. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio is known for holding many prestigious film accolades, which he earned for his exceptional acting skills.
He is also ranked as the 8th world’s highest-paid actor.
However, unknown to many, Leonardo DiCaprio struggles with unspecified SSRDs, often expressed in his phlegmatic personality.
Although he tries his best to deal with his mental disorder, he sometimes finds himself postponing or delaying his response to various outer stimuli.
8. Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham is an American writer, actress, director, and producer.
The multi-talented woman has shared her struggle with Somatic Symptoms and Related Disorders in several public posts and interviews.
For instance, she opened her Instagram post about her journey with Illness Anxiety Disorder resulting from her fibromyalgia condition.
Celebrities with Conversion Disorder
Conversion Disorder is one of the several disorders found in the broader SSRDs category that results from physical and psychological factors.
The disorder mostly occurs when the somatic symptoms involve any aspect of the central nervous system and has fixed reactions to neurological malfunctioning that can cause mental deficits.
Although Conversion Disorder is often confused with Somatic Symptom Disorder, the key differences between the two conditions are the focus of preoccupation with symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
For instance, in Conversion Disorder, the focus is on the specific neurological symptoms while in Somatic Symptom Disorder, the focus is on the broader physical symptoms.
Also, while treating both SSD and Conversion Disorder involves addressing the underlying symptoms and providing psychotherapy and counseling, specific strategies may be needed based on the nature of psychological and physical symptoms and the patient’s needs.
Celebrities who have talked openly about their struggles with Conversion Disorder include:
- Leonardo DiCaprio
- Tim Howard
- Ian Puleston
- Jonathan Rhys Meyers
- Jameela Jamil
- Daryl Hannah
- Lady Gaga
- Emily Carr
It is vital to note that diagnosing and treating Somatic Symptom Disorder is challenging since the symptoms can vary and are easily confused with other psychological and physical ailments.
Also, while there exist stigma and social denial surrounding Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders, it is advisable for anyone experiencing the symptoms to seek medical help before taking any dangerous step to address them.
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