Somatoform disorder is an unusual neurological and psychiatric illness that can cause a great deal of pain and unhappiness. A growing body of evidence suggests that it also may increase one’s chances of developing a substance use disorder. If you or a loved one have somatoform disorder and a problem with substance abuse, it is essential to get help immediately.

What Is Somatoform Disorder?

This term refers to a wide variety of disorders that affect people in similar ways. In somatoform disorders, people suffer from a variety of symptoms and sensations that are not caused by any known illness. For example, people may feel pain, itching, warmth, and other sensations despite having nothing wrong with the area where the sensation is felt. 

We do not know a lot about what causes this kind of health issue. Evidence suggests that the problem is caused by a mixture of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Somatoform disorders can be extremely distressing to people who suffer from them. Unlike more typical pain syndromes, there is no way to treat or even to prevent this pain. In addition, many people with this disorder feel like their loved ones don’t believe them, adding an element of mental distress. 

How Is This Disorder Linked to Substance Abuse?

Several studies have found a link between somatoform disorder and substance abuse. Although alcohol and marijuana are the most common substances used by people with this disorder, they also often use opioids such as oxycodone, heroin, and fentanyl as these can alleviate pain and discomfort. In addition, people with this disorder may use any medication or drug that they believe will relieve their pain and distress.

Somatoform Disorder

Many street drugs intensify the effects of certain medications commonly prescribed for somatoform disorder such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. Because people with this group of disorders are uncomfortable, depressed, and in pain, they are at exceptionally high risk of addiction.

Drug treatment for a person who has somatoform disorder can be extremely complicated. In addition to treating the substance use disorder, any successful treatment must address the somatoform symptoms as well as the depression and anxiety that these can cause.

Effects of Drug Use

It can be challenging to tell if a person with this type of disorder has developed drug dependence. In many cases, the impact of drug abuse tend to overlap with the symptoms of somatoform disorders. 

However, you may notice a worsening or change in the person’s symptoms, which can include:

  • Intoxication and appearing like they are altered
  • Depression and anxiety
  • A sudden need for money that was not present before
  • New friends and acquaintances that do not seem like good people
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Changes in sleep patterns, especially if the person is sleeping much more than usual
  • Agitation, irritability, and other changes in personality
  • Sexual changes, including either becoming hypersexual or losing their sex drive altogether

It can be challenging to identify substance use in someone with somatoform disorder because these symptoms also can be byproducts of their illness. In most cases, the tip-off is a sudden worsening of symptoms and withdrawal from loved ones. If your loved one has any or all of these symptoms, they likely have a substance use disorder that is worsening their somatoform symptoms.

Special Care for Dual Diagnosis

Treating somatoform disorder can be extremely complicated. Psychotherapy and counseling are crucial to helping the patient to change their thought patterns and cope with the stress of their illness. Also, medications such as antidepressants can help to reduce symptoms. Many people find that alternative therapies such as acupuncture and massage also help to treat somatoform disorders.

These approaches also can be useful in the treatment of drug abuse or addiction. Besides, people who are struggling with substance use also can often benefit from group therapies and other specialized therapies for substance use.

Most people will not be successful in overcoming either somatoform disorder or substance use unless both are treated at the same time. As a result, it is crucial to find a program that can address both health issues as well as the underlying anxiety and depression at the same time. 

High-quality treatment can lay the foundation for a new and healthy life. It can help people to escape both the downward spiral of drug and alcohol use and the constant pain and anxiety of somatoform disorder. 

If you or a loved one are suffering from Somatoform Disorder as well as a substance abuse issue, get help today. There is no need to continue suffering when practical and confidential support is available.