Somatization and the Social Construction of Illness Experience

  • Laurence Kirmayer


Somatization has been defined as the tendency to experience or express psychological states as somatic symptoms (Lipowski, 1968) or the use of somatic symptoms for psychological purposes (Ford, 1983). People who might be expected to complain of depression, anxiety or marital conflict are found instead to suffer from headaches, fatigue, indigestion and a myriad of other physical symptoms. The assumption that physical symptoms can be caused by social difficulties and amplified by attention is basic to psychological medicine. What somatization adds to this picture is a focus on the discrepancy between patients’ experiences of their problems as somatic, and the belief of health-care providers that the problem is psychological or social in nature.


Physical Symptom Somatic Symptom Causal Attribution Psychosomatic Medicine Chronic Pain Patient 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurence Kirmayer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryMcGill UniversityUSA

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