Somatic symptom disorder is described as excessive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors related to physical symptoms. The presence of somatic symptoms has been associated with depression, alexithymia, and the presence of chronic pain. Individuals with somatic symptom disorder are frequent attenders of primary health care services.
We focused on investigating if the presence of psychological symptoms, alexithymia, or pain could be risk factors for somatic symptoms in a secondary health care service.
A cross-sectional and observational study. A total of 136 Mexican individuals who regularly attend a secondary health care service were recruited. The Visual Analogue Scale for Pain Assessment, the Symptom Checklist 90, and the Patient Health Questionnaire-15 were applied.
Of all the participants, 45.2% showed somatic symptoms. We observed that these individuals more frequently presented with complaints of pain (χ2 = 18.4, p < .001), as well as more severe (t = –4.6, p < .001), and prolonged (χ2 = 4.9, p = 0.02). They also exhibited higher severity in all psychological dimensions assessed (p < .001). Finally, cardiovascular disease (t = 2.52, p = .01), pain intensity (t = 2.94, p = .005), and SCL-90 depression (t = 7.58, p < .001) were associated with somatic symptoms.
In this study, we observed a high frequency of somatic symptoms in outpatients attending secondary health care services. They may be accompanied by comorbid cardiovascular conditions, higher pain intensity, and other mental health-related symptoms, which may aggravate the general clinical picture presented by the patient seeking health care. The presence and severity of somatization should be taken into consideration in the first and second level health care services for an early mental state evaluation and treatment of these outpatients to have a better clinical assessment and health outcome.
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Published online: March 06, 2023
Accepted: February 11, 2023
Received in revised form: December 13, 2022
Received: February 11, 2022
Publication stageIn Press Corrected Proof
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